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Monday, March 7, 2011

A Strange Sunday Night at K'vetsh: Self-Help for Ex-Cons, Masturbation While Reciting Hamlet

Posted on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Kirk Read and Tara Jepsen set a comfortable standard at K'vetsh.
  • Kirk Read and Tara Jepsen set a comfortable standard at K'vetsh.

"Rainy Sunday night" for most of us means "reason to stay home," but the weather can't stop weird things from happening in San Francisco. A small group of people who weren't thwarted by the precipitation saw a reading that included a Sinister headliner barking lines from his self-help book for addicts, a naughty Multi-Tasker who stroked himself while reciting Shakespeare, and a Crumbsnatcher whose hysterical report of near-seduction by a homeless man in a public restroom would have easily stolen a lesser show. It was K'vetsh, the only multi-gender reading we know of that happens in a gay sex club, Eros. And, according to local lit aficionado Evan Karp at Litseen, it's the longest-running queer open-mic series in the United States. (It turned 14 in December.)

K'vetch is led by Tara Jepsen and the fittingly named Kirk Read; the pair's onstage small talk resembles sketch improv more than any typical MC banter. The fact that they've been doing it for so long - and that many of the readers are regulars - contributes to an atmosphere of camaraderie rather than competition; one of the readers (horehound stillpoint) fully expected his new piece to fail, for example, but that didn't seem to even make him nervous. (The piece, by the way, was a tremendous success. One of its more memorable lines: "You're the only guy I know who could fuck up a wet dream.") For a donation of $3-$5, about 25 people showed up to hear a lineup of two headliners and seven people who's signed up to read pieces that take no longer than 5 minutes. And they were not disappointed.

"Even as a well-read man, my favorite word is fuck," says Bucky Sinister.
  • "Even as a well-read man, my favorite word is fuck," says Bucky Sinister.
Bucky Sinister led the comedic barrage by reading from his book, Still Standing, which he described as a self-help book for those recently out of jail or new to the 12-step circuit. One lesson included watching an alcoholic shoplifter steal the cheapest vodka on the shelf: "Of all the liquor in the store, why'd you steal the Royal Gate?" Sinister asked the thief. His reply? "Because it was on sale!" Another Sinister story focused on the f-word: "Even as a well-read man, my favorite word is fuck," Bucky said to great laughter, "because of its versatility, simplicity, and adaptability."

"Fuck is our aloha," he said.

Sinister, ever the ad-hoc showman, confessed to having left the poems at home that he'd planned to read, so instead he retrieved several on his iPhone and read from that. It's not just anyone who could change course at the last minute and read words on such a small screen, but Sinister did it well and in his trademark fashion: eliciting laughs as well as having people on the verge on tears with only a few seconds in between. Sinister also pushed onomatopoeia to new levels by realistically imitating not only the content but also the unthinkably fast pace of a speed freak's paranoid ramblings. His pace made a Marx Brothers movie look measured and dull by comparison.

"Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar," says Multi-Tasking Michael.
  • "Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar," says Multi-Tasking Michael.
Before Sinister was a regular reader who referred to himself only as Multi-Tasking Michael. The only naked reader at the clothing-optional event, Michael lubed up his left hand and pleasured himself while reciting from Shakespeare's Hamlet. "This tests my powers of concentration," said Michael, who jokingly discouraged people from laughing because it distracted him. He ended his piece by reciting as well as demonstrating "to thine own self be true."
"Step into my office," Alexander Crumbsnatcher's homeless friend repeatedly says.
  • "Step into my office," Alexander Crumbsnatcher's homeless friend repeatedly says.
The would-be show stealer was the (also) fittingly named Alexander Crumbsnatcher, who read a frantically paced story about being lured from a computer-lab queue by a homeless man he knew. A different pace or delivery would have pushed some of Crumbsnatcher's comments into a questionable zone (especially in San Francisco) but his unforgiving pace and confessional tone made the audience forget about anything but the dire (and uproariously funny) situation at hand.
Blythe Baldwin
  • Blythe Baldwin
Other readers included K.M. Soehnlein, who read a moving story (So Much to Learn) from his novel-in-progress about coming of age as a gay man during the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City. Blythe Baldwin read a powerful poem -- "This is For You" -- dedicated to a friend (who was attending) that left the audience wanting an encore. Michael Layne Heath returned to the reading stage after a long absence. Danny Nguyen closed the evening with a heart-ripping tale of a planned hookup that didn't happen - making a very recent breakup all the more painful.

K'vetch happens the first Sunday of every month in a common area of Eros, which has gained the reputation over the years for being an inclusive and community-minded venue that's welcoming to mixed-gender events.

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