Singing the Climax: A New Musical Theater Company Launches with a Show About a Nymphomaniac's Lawsuit

In 2012, after conceiving the idea of creating a musical theater company telling only Bay Area stories, Tony Asaro was sitting at his computer searching for alluring, culturally relevant stories for the theater's first musical production. Gazing at the Google search bar, he typed: "san francisco ghost stories," "san francisco political scandals," and even "playland accidents." Finally, he searched for "san francisco sex scandals" and found a top 10 list in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. His eyes drifted to a headline that caught his attention. He read a short blurb about "The Cable Car Nymphomaniac," a story about a 29-year-old woman who sued Muni for $500,000 in 1970 for a cable car accident that injured her six years earlier. She claimed that after she hit her head on a pole, she developed an insatiable sexual appetite that prompted her to have sex with more than 100 men. The woman eventuallywon a settlement of $50,000.

As Asaro stared at his screen in disbelief, he thought, "That's a musical."

Asaro, Aimee Miles, and Carey McCray, co-founders of FOGG Theatre Company, are trying to shake up traditional musical theater by following the tenets of the local foods, farm-to-table philosophy. The founders envision a company where the "produce was the stories that we had to tell here in the Bay Area that aren't getting told elsewhere," says Asaro.

Monica Turner will sing you a tale of a woman with an insatiable head injury.
Nico Rico
Monica Turner will sing you a tale of a woman with an insatiable head injury.

Location Info

Map

a.Muse Gallery

614 Alabama
San Francisco, CA 94110

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights

Details

A reading of the script is March 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the a.Muse Gallery, 614 Alabama St., S.F. RSVP at foggtheatre.org.

Related Stories

More About

To that end, FOGG, for "Focus on Golden Gate," keeps things as local as possible: It tells the stories of Bay Area heroes, histories, communities, concerns, and ideologies; all the actors, writers, directors, and sound technicians are from the Bay Area; and the company uses the local crowdfunding site, Indiegogo, to raise money. They wanted to create a ripple within the theater community that could be felt on their home turf. "It goes back to the roots of theater in Greece. Theater that comes from the community, that reflects the community and that features members of the community," says McCray.

The idea for FOGG was hatched when Asaro and McCray decided to move back to San Francisco from New York in 2011. Graduates of New York University's theater program and deeply embedded in the musical scene there, they thought leaving the nation's industry hub at first seemed unwise. When they announced their departure, their friends assumed that they were leaving the industry altogether. McCray says that there was a misconception that "leaving New York was indicative of the end of your life in legitimate new musical theater."

Miles also felt her hometown calling her back after she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. For more than a decade, she racked up credentials in the L.A. acting scene through film and television appearances, but her passion remained in new musical theater and in returning to S.F. "It felt like career suicide to leave Los Angeles as a working actor, but ironically, coming back has been the best thing artistically that's ever happened to me," says Miles.

But once back in S.F., they realized that the shows that they were seeing were by New York playwrights and starring New York actors. There was a void in Bay Area-based musical productions acted out by San Franciscan staff. Asaro continued to wonder, "What about our voice?" They wanted San Francisco to be a city that generated respected theater. "Without New York attached to it, it didn't have any pedigree, so we wanted to change that," says Miles.


After stumbling upon the story of the Cable Car Nymphomaniac, Asaro retreated to the library and went through back issues of The Examiner and the Chronicle from April 1970. The story unraveled with every click of the Microfishe reel. In 1964, Gloria Sykes, an innocent 23-year-old from Dearborn Heights, Mich., moved to San Francisco to work as a dancer. Two weeks after arriving in San Francisco, she boarded the Hyde Street cable car. As it climbed upwards, the brakes malfunctioned, sending the car careening down a hill. Sykes hit her head against a pole and left the accident with a newfound appetite for sex and lawsuits.

Sykes sued Muni after the 1967 Summer of Love, so the court case reinforced the notion that the city was full of hedonists. "It's really indicative of this schism between how sexuality is embraced in this area and how different that is from a lot of the rest of the country," says Asaro. He felt that the story exemplified San Francisco because instead of Sykes being chastized for her sexuality, she was taken seriously. "Her being sexual wasn't something to demonize," he says.

Asaro was captivated by the provocative drama that he read in the newspaper clippings. Psychiatrists and lovers testified in court, sharing their perceptions of Sykes' actions. One clipping even detailed an unexpected marriage proposal to Sykes. Asaro consulted Kirsten Geunther, a native San Franciscan writer based in New York, to write the book for the musical while he focused on composition and lyrics. They incorporated the psychiatrists' and the lovers' testimonies into the songs and lyrics in the show.

The Cable Car Nymphomaniac is told from the perspective of those testifying, singing their version of events with funny, raunchy lyrics (in one, Sykes' lovers sing, in unison, "So clear the tracks 'cause here comes Gloria/Adjust your slacks 'cause here comes Gloria"). Upbeat, flirty piano strokes and intricate melodies remind the listener of the absurdity of the whole thing.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
 
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...