David Rokeach - drummer
REVIEWS - David Rokeach, Drums

Curtain Calls: Oakland drummer in S.F. Mime Troupe’s new podcast
by Sally Hogarty East Bay Times
PUBLISHED: June 26, 2021

David Rokeach Oakland drummer David Rokeach, above, will help keep the beat July 4, when the San Francisco Mime Troupe (SFMT) launches its new series of political comedy audio plays, “Tales of the Resistance, Volume 2: Persistence.” (photo courtesy of Donna Korones)

When the San Francisco Mime Troupe (SFMT) launches its “Tales of the Resistance, Volume 2: Persistence” on July 4, Oakland drummer David Rokeach will be helping keep the beat in this new series of political comedy audio plays.

While the troupe usually plays in Bay Area parks, ensuring audience safety during this transitional time led to a second season of podcasts with in-person park performances slated for summer 2022. Rokeach remembers when he first played with the SFMT in 1982. He and SFMT were both turning 23 that summer as he discovered his passion for the group’s social justice mission.

“Their message and creativity resonated with me, but we also had a lot of fun and we laughed a lot,” he says.

Although Rokeach went on to play with such performers as Taj Mahal, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Maria Muldaur, Rita Moreno, Mariah Carey, Carole King and Aretha Franklin to name just a few, he stayed in touch with the mime troupe, often playing the company’s anniversary shows.

When the pandemic started, Rokeach reached out to SFMT Musical Director Daniel Savio for work. Fortunately, Rokeach had already put together his own recording studio in his home basement, so he was ready when Savio replied that he needed a drummer for the “Persistence” podcasts.

“The podcasts draw on different types of musical genres for the scene and incidental music,” Rokeach said. “But we’re all playing by ourselves in our own recording studios. It often takes hours to end up with three minutes of music. Before the pandemic, we’d all be in the same room. We’d rehearse and then play the song. It would take three minutes.”

Rokeach acknowledges how different it is to play music this way rather than being together with the other musicians and the actors, watching each show evolve.

“Now, I sometimes don’t know exactly what’s going on for each show. Daniel sends me the music, and I do it. But I trust him and the troupe. I know the message will be a good one,” said Rokeach. “But I’ve also learned skills I’ll be able to use beyond the pandemic, and I have a renewed respect for technical people. You don’t just become a sound engineer when you buy the gear. Many sound engineers have spent as much time learning their craft as we have learning our instruments.”

“Tales of the Resistance, Volume 2: Persistence” will consist of 10 weekly podcasts from July 4 through Sept. 5. Each individual episode is about 29 minutes long and includes original radio plays in two genres: adventure and mystery. The troupe’s popular “Little Jimmy” series will also be featured as well as a new series, “Eyeball on History!” In addition, special single episodes incorporate sci-fi, musical genres and discussions with SFMT activists and artists.

The podcast series features SFMT veterans as well as newcomers including award-winning actor Francis Jue. You might recognize Jue from one of the many television shows or films he’s been in or for his superb performance in San Francisco Playhouse’s 2019 production of “King of the Yees.”

The series begins July 4 with “Mysterious Mysteries!: The Tale of the Black Fox” and “Eyeball on History.” Another Mysterious Mysteries episode takes place July 25. The troupe’s July 11 and Aug. 1 podcasts present “Jailbreak! Passion … for Justice” and “Little Jimmy” with July 18 a discussion on racial equity and police violence in “We Keep Us Safe.” The sci-fi adventure “Hobos in Space” airs Aug. 8 with a dialogue on homelessness Aug. 15 in “Housing for All.” The Aug. 22, 29 and Sept. 5 episodes are still to be announced. The podcasts are free, but donations would not be amiss. Podcasts can be accessed at sfmt.org/talesvol2 as well as on Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts and YouTube. For more info, go to sfmt.org.

Orinda: Cal Shakes has announced that Jackie Keliiaa will perform at 8 p.m. July 17 in “Good Medicine: A Night of Live Native Stand-Up” (calshakes.org/good-medicine) at Orinda’s Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way.

“This art is urgent. It needs to be heard, lauded, celebrated and supported,” said Keliiaa. “Native comedy is blowing up, and ‘Good Medicine’ is a long-overdue spotlight on live stand-up comedy from some of the best and brightest comedians Indian Country has to offer.”

Moraga: Join Town Hall Theatre’s Bay Area Celebration in Moraga from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 10 for a fundraising event at the Moraga Commons Park on the corner of Moraga and St. Mary’s roads. The event brings together Bay Area artists through song and spoken word as the Lafayette theater reconnects in-person with the local community.

Madison Gerringer will direct the event, which features the East Bay Groove Funk band Steve Carter Trio accompanying the performances. Portions of the live event will be broadcast from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. July 20 at townhalltheatre.com. Go to the website for more information.

Sally Hogarty can be reached at sallyhogarty@gmail.com. Read more of her reviews online at eastbaytimes.com/author/sally-hogarty.

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