|San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band at City Hall.
On Sunday, January 8, we musicians from the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band performed for the inauguration of Mayor Ed Lee, sworn in that day as the 43rd mayor of San Francisco by Diane Feinstein. The band was one of many local performers to provide entertainment, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Girls and Boys Choruses of San Francisco, Leungâ€™s White Crane Dragon and Lion Dance Association, World Arts West, Beach Blanket Babylon and the San Francisco Gay Menâ€™s Chorus. It was a symbolic nod to our cityâ€™s diversity, and a fitting gesture from Mayor Lee, whose inaugural speech emphasized the need to come together with civility.
Thereâ€™s nothing quite like playing in the City Hall rotunda. You take your place at the top of the Grand Staircase, dwarfed by neoclassical carvings. And when you play, the music ricochets around the marble halls and columns, circling the inside of the enormous dome until you find youâ€™re accompanying your own echo in a room almost as old as the City itself. The inauguration was attended by every living mayor of San Francisco â€“ Diane Feinstein, Art Agnos, Frank Jordan, Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, even George Mosconeâ€™s widow, Gina â€“ and by national and state officials including Nancy Pelosi, Mark Leno, Kamala Harris, Tom Ammiano. In that setting before that audience, it felt like the music echoed back through history. The effect was haunting.
The following week, I went to see â€śGhost Lightâ€ť at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and experienced a different kind of haunting at City Hall.
Jonathan Moscone â€“ California Shakespeare Companyâ€™s artistic director and the youngest son of Mayor George Moscone â€“ has collaborated with Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone to dramatize how his fatherâ€™s assassination with Harvey Milk in 1978 has impacted his life. The play is part fictionalized personal reminiscence, part psychological exorcism and part opportunity for Moscone to set the record straight about his fatherâ€™s political contributions.
The play opens with the character Jonathan wrestling with design concepts of a production of Hamlet heâ€™s directing. Heâ€™s stuck on how to portray Hamletâ€™s father, the murdered ghost. The entire technical production has ground to a halt because of Jonathanâ€™s Hamlet-esque indecision. Meanwhile, Jonathan suffers from nightmares. He is 14 years old and an otherworldly police officer in City Hall tries to lead Jonathan to his fatherâ€™s coffin and into the grave. In his dream, the boy resists, and in his waking life, adult Jonathan erupts in emotional outbursts, eventually collapses and is forced to face his own ghosts.
The witty, ironic perspective Jonathanâ€™s story brings to the Moscone/Milk history was particularly interesting for me. Jonathan is a gay man who secretly resents Harvey Milkâ€™s posthumous stellar rise while his father is forgotten. Jonathan reminds us that his father, not Milk, was instrumental in decriminalizing Californiaâ€™s homosexuality in California as State Senate Majority Leader. Moscone made the same horrific
sacrifice as Milk, championing the same issues. Itâ€™s a reminder that our progress has relied on San Franciscans coming together for generations.