Many San Franciscans associate the gritty downtown neighborhood of the Tenderloin with crime, or Glide Memorial Church, or maybe ethnic restaurants. To documentary theater specialist Annie Elias, it had been a place to get in and out of as quickly as she could, with as little interaction as possible. So when Rob Melrose, artistic director of the Cutting Ball Theater, asked Elias to create a theater piece about the neighborhood called Tenderloin, she was surprised to find the overwhelming response of potential subjects for the play was love for the district and a desire for others to see what an amazing place it is. Tenderloin, previews for which start this weekend, was aimed at bringing the theater into the neighborhood where it’s located, but also to bring the neighborhood into the theater. To do so Elias and the cast members interviewed Tenderloin residents to create composites that form a portrait of the district. One of the people Elias met was longtime resident Mark Ellinger, photographer and historian of the neighborhood, whose photos on his blog, Up From the Deep, show a surprising beauty. He gave Elias a list of possible subjects for the actors to interview and create the play. Subjects include activists, police officers, artists, immigrants, former junkies, kids, and people who are active in the politics of the neighborhood and the city, giving a wide range of perspectives on life in the Tenderloin and what home means.
Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: April 27. Continues through June 24, 2012