Christopher Bernard reviews 13th Floor’s play ‘Next Time I’ll Take the Stairs’ at San Francisco’s Joe Goode Annex

Zach Fischer and Jenny McAllister

Photos: Robbie Sweeny and Pak Han


Next Time I’ll Take the Stairs

13th Floor

Joe Goode Annex

San Francisco

A review by Christopher Bernard

I saw an earlier version of this piece – equal parts poetry, family drama, circus act and dance by 13th Floor, once a dance company, now doing theater as well – as a work in progress at the FURY Factory Festival of Ensemble and Devised Theater in June of this year, and so I’ll begin my review with what I said then:

“[‘Next Time I’ll Take the Stairs’ is] an elevator play, but with a difference, . . . depicting a ride to hell in the belly of the Otis Company’s most famous product. I say ‘to hell,’ but that may be over-simplifying just a hair; as 13th Floor tells it, it’s a ride to ‘a multi-storied world, inhabited by the shades of previous riders. Down is up, up is nowhere, and the memories of who you were can be re-formed by the stranger standing next to you.’ The show follows the adventures of brothers Arthur and Norris, their sister Rabbit, a lasciviously sadistic, compulsively inquisitive lady named Ivy and a disingenuous lug with a big wrench and the suspicious name of Otis, after all five crowd into an elevator that crashes into an alternative universe that is both unforgivingly absurd and weirdly sweet.

julie-mahony-and-david-silpa-in-next-time-photo-by-robbie-sweeny-5julie-mahony-and-david-silpa-in-next-time-photo-by-robbie-sweeny-5 Continue reading

Announcement from our creative partners – the 2016 Nature Writing Contest


Announcing the 2016 International Nature Writing Contest, sponsored by authors Rui Carvalho, Sara Rodriguez Arias, and Janine Canan and by Synchronized Chaos Magazine.

We are searching for a new Lord Byron, who can go forth, creating poetry to praise nature and those who love her.

Beauty of nature is one of the nights imperishable, one of the endless days, with horizons made of sands on the shore.

The forest can be seen as a hospitable home, inhabited by humble virtues.

But, for those whom poetry doesn’t love, it matters not.

And this is why we seek high-quality poetry; poetry that expresses feelings with the strength of the undying masterpiece. No injury can befall that timeless poetry, made with the most pure water of the creativity’s fountain.

Please submit your original poetry or short tales here.

Please help support the nonprofit project we have chosen as a beneficiary of this contest, an organic orchard in Albanil, Portugal, in buying a rainwater capture tank to irrigate sustainably without using power.

Rainwater Capture Tank Project for a Sustainable Organic Orchard


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Synchronized Chaos December 2016: Loss and Restoration

Welcome, readers, to December’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine. This time we explore ideas related to loss and restoration.

How do we cope when something goes missing? Is it really different when we have lost a small object versus something larger, such as our personal or cultural identity, our sustenance, or the values through which we order and find meaning in life? How do we find what we seek, and what happens when we realize that what we need cannot be simply found and restored, but must be created from scratch?

Sarah Widdup gives us a tale of a mermaid who has lost her fins and ability to live under water, but returns to her ancestral ocean homeland for a time to bring a crucial personal item back to a shark.

Michael Robinson’s poem also looks into his past, describing the rough, violent, but diverse and vibrant neighborhood where he grew up. His piece compares the metaphorical prison of inner city poverty and the lack of safety and job opportunities, and his subsequent confinement in a mental hospital.

J.K. Durick’s poetry probes the lingering physical and mental after effects of war and murder and illustrates how violence can beget further destruction when it corrodes people’s psyches. He further shows how death, even natural death, is integrated inextricably with our daily lives, to where even our phone’s rings can be associated with someone’s passing.

Michael Marrotti invents a satirical tale of a poet who earns money and success through learning to craft crowd pleasing banalities. Jenny Santellano’s poems look into what it takes to be an authentic human being, with one’s thoughts and feelings superimposed on a background of everyday life and responsibilities, as well as vapid fake culture from those who have not yet probed the mysteries of life as deeply.

The tension between popular success, ordinary survival and true innovation is a common plague in the life of many artists. Although Marrotti’s speaker does not seem to suffer to the extent of Michael Robinson, even at the impoverished beginning of his career, he leaves readers wondering if there can be a middle ground where artists can feed themselves as well as our imaginations. After all, in Santellano’s piece Dante’s World, the home fires need tending, just as much as life’s meaning needs to be understood.

Donal Mahoney’s essay describes a community where people make efforts to carry each other through tough times. Even when they only have so much to eat themselves, they ‘add water to the beans’ to stretch their resources to accommodate whoever is struggling.

Christopher Bernard urges a return to community and to values such as caring and nurturance. His essay laments what he sees as a victory for aggression and toxic hypermasculinity in the United States presidential election and calls us to work to restoring social balance. In his poem Trumplandia, a takeoff on the Genesis creation story, he mocks the idea of a cultural ethic built on greed and vapid entertainment and materialism.

J.J. Campbell’s poetry illustrates how racial prejudice operates on a systemic and often subconscious level. J.D. DeHart presents images of power – law enforcement, strong people, childhood superheroes. Also, together with J.J. Campbell, he probes the boundaries between existence and nonexistence, and between having a strong sense of self or an identity crisis. 

Vijay Nair laments what he sees as Nepal’s smallness and lack of distinction on a world scale and wishes for the nation to develop a stronger sense of identity.

M. Spear describes a tangible loss in his poetry, where he misses a past acquaintance. His work also searches out our origins, which Spear suggests may be an machine rather than the creator being of many religious traditions.

Rui Carvalho reviews a graphic novel where robotic beings experience emotional pain, loss and connection. He points out how the artwork and color scheme of the graphics helps to convey the story’s theme. A machine need not be purely impersonal or soulless.

Neil Ellman contributes another set of ekphrastic poetry, where his free verse accompanies modern art pieces, transliterating its colorful images into words. The Modernist era in Western art and thought involved much exploration of loss, grief, personal and national identity, mechanization, and finding meaning in a world lost and disconnected from its traditional sources.

Richard Slota’s historical novel Stray Son, as reviewed by Cristina Deptula, points to the value of identifying and separating one’s self from the unhealthy influences of one’s past. To properly grieve the losses of his parents and the happy family and childhood that he wished for his whole life, protagonist Patrick Yaworsky feels he must start by understanding why his parents abused him. That way he can externalize what happened as a product of his parents’ own troubled upbringing and time periods, rather than internalizing it as something that he deserved or brought on himself. This represents a healthy dissociation for him, and a way to free himself from the pain of past losses and restore health and stability to at least his own nuclear family.

Cristina Deptula also reviews Phyllis Grilikes’ Autism’s Stepchild, the story of the author’s friendship with a woman whose daughter has a condition which we would today recognize as autism. The book shares their journey towards understanding Jean and accepting her the way she is while helping her learn to communicate more effectively and encouraging her to develop her interests and talents. Also, she reviews Brett Matthew Axel’s children’s fairy tale Goblinheart, which shows the beauty of being free to live an authentic life within a community who accepts you.

And, finally, Joan Beebe shows us an image of life’s restoration in the form of a new baby. 

We at Synchronized Chaos Magazine wish all of you health, nurturance, freedom, a stable sense of identity, and food for your table and your mind. And a very pleasant holiday season, as the solstice brings us from one end of the year to another, as Persephone revisits the underworld for another six months with its fabled pomegranates.

Photo by Marina Shemesh, available here:

Photo by Marina Shemesh, available here:

Poetry from Jenny Santellano

Reality Reigns

When they rape you,
and they will
your cowardliness
will meet it’s match

You can not conceal
the ill fate
that awaits you

on the other side
of your fake

Fawning Fans

You give them
your blood

They give you

Starlit Plight



Dante’s Time

Love is in the air
the smell
of smoldering

Who’s going
to clean up
the mess
this time?

you bitch
a man
lying on
the floor
to join

Pick up
a broom!

Death is
no excuse

Brett Matthew Axel’s children’s book Goblinheart, reviewed by Cristina Deptula

Brett Matthew Axel’s Goblinheart shares the story of a young creature who grows fairy wings, yet truly feels they are a goblin with claws. Julep’s forest dwelling tribe allows Julep to live openly as a goblin and do a goblin job tending to tree roots and even make claws. Julep later pays it forward by helping a goblin from another tribe who considers themselves to be a fairy and wants to live openly.

The book presents a message of acceptance and honesty with self and others. Goblinheart has a message relevant to transgender concerns, but the story could encompass so much more, as many of us are much more complex than what we look like on the outside.

Enjoyable book with intricate illustrations and a coherent story. Fun to read and just enough words to tell the tale of Julep!

Poetry by Neil Ellman

Wilder Shores of Love

(after the painting by Cy Twombly)











After the river is crossed

so many unspeakable words

so many excuses

so many photographs

torn and burned

chairs thrown

and mirrors shattered

on its wilder shore

no peaceable kingdom

no place for devotion

conciliation and love.


The other side is littered

with broken promises

fragments of concession

and accord

so little time together

and so much apart

we are left as creatures

of our inner wild.


You and I have crossed

the river too many times

but now with no way home

and nowhere else to go.

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Poetry from Christopher Bernard


The Genesis of Trumplandia

In the beginning Donald remodeled the heavens and the earth. And the heavens were sublimely beautiful and the earth was a pleasing place, but Donald was without form and void, and he hovered like a shapeless cloud over the deep.

And Donald said, Let there be Darkness. And there was darkness.

And Donald saw the darkness, that it was bad, real bad, and Donald divided the darkness from the light.

And he called the darkness day and the light he called the night. And evening and midnight were the first day.

And Donald said let there be a really classy casino town on an island, like Atlantic City, but one that doesn’t go bankrupt this time, in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters, you know like a martini before you shake it.

And Donald made the really classy casino island town and divided the waters which were under the island from those which were above, where Donald of course would be living in the penthouse.

And he called the really classy casino island Heaven. And evening and midnight were the second day.

And Donald said, Let all of the waters that were under the casino island be gathered together into one place: it will make Mar-a-Lago the coolest resort ever.

And Donald called the dry land Trumplandia and the gathering together of the waters he called the Largest Swimming Pool in Florida.

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