Friday, June 30, 2017

San Francisco's Exploratorium offers eye-popping time with wonders of science, art, perception

What do a bell, a wheel and a pendulum have in common?  You'll find out at the Exploratorium.
Sights and sounds merge and dance as Steve Ganner shares
the wonders with his mesmerized daughter Penelope. 



James Brian Ganner and sister Penelope Margaret
 have fun with a magical spinning cloud chamber.


Bruce Keller has fun with invisible forces and spinning
 effects in one of the museum's interesting  exhibits. 

IF YOU NEVER completely "grew up," San Francisco's Exploratorium is designed with you in mind.  It's the classic "children of all ages" activity if you're looking for something to entertain several generations. We spent a happy day with our niece, her husband and their two youngsters. Good time had by all.
The Exploratorium is an inventive, state-of-the-art public learning laboratory in San Francisco exploring the world through science, art, and human perception. Its mission is to create inquiry-based experiences that transform learning worldwide.  Its eye-popping, mind-boggling experiments boldly go...
THE DAY we visited, a veritable United Nations of tourists wandered through, eyes wide with wonder.
Mirror magic: children, parents and grandparents smile, touch
and gaze at mirror images of themselves.
Wide-ranging Exploratorium offerings, demonstrations and exhibits range from cooking to toothpick art, crepe paper to celestial viewing, transportation and gravity.

Adults get sucked into the pleasure of discovery; with each
turn a new inter-active exhibit invites touch. Here, from
left, Steve, Cookie and Amarylla play with static electricity.
Keller's, Cookie's Exploratorium 
wish: may the Force be with you!
 The Exploratorium has six main galleries, each focusing on a different area of exploration. Common to all are interactive exhibits that reward attention and provoke thought and wonder. Tying the galleries together is that each exhibit encourages questions -- "how did they do that?" -- so as you play with displays and experiment with moving parts and mysterious forces, you discover new ways to understand how the world works.
Thousands of toothpicks create 
iconic San Francisco imagery.
ONE INTRIGUING aspect to this museum lover was the huge variety of people who wandered through, prepared to be amazed. Art museum patrons have, well, an "artsy" look about them. High-powered science based museums seem to attract "nerdy types" -- in the word's best sense. There was no obvious profile to our crowd. Young, old, scholarly, laid back, white collar, working class -- a pleasant mix of ethnicity, families. Sport clothes, flip-flops, dressed for a night on the town. An exhilarating melange!

THE EXPLORATORIUM is an offering on the great CityPASS attractions ticket, which allows entree into must-see attractions at a bargain price in many of the country's major cities. In San Francisco, CityPASS also includes unlimited rides on the city's fabled cable cars.;

Phil Johnson, left, and Omri Schein take on 14 characters
in the delightful "Withering Heights" at Diversionary
Theatre, a clever, affectionate send-up of the Bronte novel.

A pair of productions stands out this week in the fertile San Diego theater scene. "Withering Heights" is a non-stop laugh fest, a brilliantly written, impeccably performed and cleverly directed send-up of the gloomy and intricate Bronte novel "Wuthering Heights." NorthCoast Rep's accomplished artistic director David Ellenstein directs two versatile actors in a cross-dressed, fast paced tribute to the raft of characters we meet in the novel -- each parody elevated to melodrama, holding the line at mockery, managing to pay tribute to Bronte's convoluted plot. Standing O our night for Phil Johnson and Omri Schein, who both wrote and perform the inventive piece. They duck, dance, romance and prance as hero, heroine, bad boy, tyrant, ingenue, father, son, daughter, betrothed, mother-to-be, inebriate, virgin and more, each with distinct physicality and voice, mannerisms and hair pieces worthy of a Restoration comedy. "Withering Heights" at Diversionary Theatre delivers a hilarious incarnation of Heathcliff, Hindley, Cathy et al as their travails -
Paul Alexander Nolan, right on chair, and the first-rate cast of La Jolla
Playhouse's engaging world premiere musical, "Escape to Margaritaville."
- remembered by a housekeeper -- are told to James Olmstead's clever music. Understated lighting and minimal props do what the best theater always does: focus our attentions on fine acting. See for yourself, while supporting this fresh, daring new company, whose debut production, "Margin of Error," was also brilliant. Roustabouts is two for two! Encore, s'il vous plait. 

At La Jolla Playhouse, treat your favorite Parrot Head to "Escape to Margaritaville," which is welcome as a summer beverage on a hot day. It's a freshly conceived yet old-fashioned musical with LJ Playhouse's usual high-tech, no expense spared set, and gorgeous lighting, props and costumes. Besides Jimmy Buffett's classic tunes, he wrote some new songs for the Broadway-bound show, snazzily directed by Tony winning Christopher Ashley. The ensemble's high energy connects with the audience, delivering a poignancy to the partying. The run has been twice extended and is virtually sold out but you might luck out -- give it a try. There's not a bad chair in this beautifully designed and artful Mandell Weiss Theatre.

NEXT UP: Fabulous
''Buddy Holly Story''
 rocks out in pair of
daring San Diego
 EXPLORE, LEARN, LIVE -- and catch us each Friday evening when we post a fresh look at travel, the arts and the natural world at
Next week's feature describes a unique and first-ever collaboration between two San Diego theaters. "The Buddy Holly" story combines the talents and organizational chutzpah of Intrepid Theatre and New Village Arts, two daring and innovative Southern California companies who brought their talents together to dazzle audiences in both venues. 


  1. Far-away cyber friends in ChileJune 30, 2017 at 6:01 PM

    Wow. On our way. Wish we could see plays too!n

  2. Mainers, Dreamers, ReadersJuly 1, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    Wish we could be there this summer, but alas Maine keeps us on the east coast. We have fond memories of the Exploratorium in its former "Palace" venue. This sounds exciting -- and right on the beautiful water. We will kidnap some little ones to spice it up! We did leave our hearts in San Francisco, and will return. Loved this piece.

  3. The Exploritorium is a treat. And we envy your rich cultural life. Carry on for the armchair contingent!

  4. Rhode Island RoadiesJuly 5, 2017 at 9:13 AM

    You two know how to LIVE!