Text by Erica Rockaway • Photography by Scarlett Ciu-ciu
Cello, electric guitar, clarinet, violin, electronic samples, vibraphone bowed like a bass violin, cooking pots, red school bell, scrap metal, autoharp played with dental floss.

Two dancers, barefoot, in black pants and nothing but wire wrapped around their naked torsos move slowly in front of the musicians, so close to the audience the dance becomes the anguish on their tortured faces. A third dancer grasps a metal ring, staring at it like he's never seen a metal ring.

From the back of the stage two female voices wail above the frantic and haunting sounds of the six-person chamber ensemble, "Keigome, Keigome, rexah kialo latha stefotia." (Translation: "I'm burning, I'm burning, throw more oil onto the fire.")

The lyrics come from Rembetika, a style of hard-edged folk music that once thrived in the hashish dens and underground cafes of post-WWI Greece.
The piece is but one in the program that night for 3 Drops of Blood, a San Francisco performance series presented by Nanos Operetta.

Before they conceived of the idea for the series, Nanos Operetta was an obscure music ensemble playing small Bay Area clubs. However, after years of struggling with the limitations of traditional music venues, it became clear that their style of music—not rock, not jazz, not ethnic, not classical—more like a movie soundtrack than anything—was better suited for the theater. So they were compelled to create a new setting where they could have complete artistic control over their presentations as well as collaborate with other performers.

Nothing quite like 3 Drops of Blood exists elsewhere on the West Coast, or perhaps anywhere for that matter. The quarterly series, named after a short story by Sadeq Hedayat, an Iranian existentialist writer,
Opposite: Paige Sorvillo and
Kinji Hayashi

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