Steven Winn is an arts writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as a frequenter interviewer for the City Arts & Lectures series.
What’s the most memorable performance you’ve attended (and why)?
The opening night of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” on a memorably hot night in May 1991, at the old Eureka Theatre at 16th and Harrison. By intermission my head, heart — heck, my whole body – were tingling from the sheer exhilarating theatricality, wisdom, humor and soul of Tony Kushner’s masterpiece about AIDS in America. Clearly something important was happening before our eyes and ears for the first time. We in that audience were present at the creation.
What’s your favorite art form?
Opera, when it works, has everything working together — narrative, the human voice, orchestral music, language, dance and spectacle. The multiplier effect is the height of Western art in its aspirational excess. Which is why it is more often absurd and bloated than blissful. But oh, when it works!
Who is the most interesting artist you’ve interviewed?
In part because she surprised me so much, Sally Field, whom I interviewed for City Arts & Lectures, was a recent favorite. Her insights about herself and her career, about movie-making in both the large and granular sense, were consistently illuminating. Her remarks about playing Mrs. Lincoln, opposite the eccentrically brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis, were simultaneously intimate, funny and self-effacing. She was as open to self-reflection, with no potted answers, as anyone I’ve interviewed.
What kinds of stories interest you for the paper?
I like to read critics reaching outside the review format to provide a deeper perspective on the art form they cover and how it resonates with the wider culture. It’s great to be introduced to something in the city and the region you didn’t know about before, and why it matters.
And, of course, what’s the worst performance you ever attended?
This is a tricky question, because in an odd way a terrible, egregious performance can be oddly stimulating. As a critic, one feels summoned to defend the art form by calling out the meretricious, exploitative and dishonest. That said, the dreadful, pseudo-serious musical “Lestat” does live on in personal infamy.
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