Evicted: The Thrillpeddlers Have Lost Their Home

The Hypnodrome, a SoMa theater where they've performed since 2004, is being sold, and they have to get out by the end of next month.

Thrillpeddlers: the cast of Pearls Over Shanghai revival 2011. (Photo by David Wilson)

The Thrillpeddlers, that macabre, flamboyantly sexual, and perennially tongue-in-cheek Grand Guignol theater troupe, has lost its home. The Hypnodrome, the theater space at 575 10th Street in SoMa where they’ve rehearsed and performed for more than a decade, is being sold, and the company has until Feb. 28 to vacate.

Having staged musicals like the annual Halloween-themed Shocktoberfest series, Club Inferno (a glam-rock retelling of Dante’s Divine Comedy) plus Pearls Over Shanghai (which they revived in 2011), the Thrillpeddlers have been a spiritual successor to the famed Cockettes. Musician and playwright Scrumbly Koldewyn was a Cockette, and the troupe revived two of that group’s productions, Hot Greeks and Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma.

Additionally, the Thrillpeddlers were the subject of SF Weekly‘s Oct. 20, 2016, cover story.

In a statement on the group’s site, artistic director Russell Blackwood wrote that what seemed like a two-year lucky break on securing a “magnificent hideaway” in 2004 turned into a 13-year run, but they were always on borrowed time:

Running The Hypnodrome never yielded a surplus to save for such a rainy day as this. In fact, our spring show’s budget always depended on income from early camp enrollment, tickets sales and our annual fund drive. Closing up shop will be expensive. While you can always contribute on our website, I’ve also added several benefit performances to help cover costs these next few months. Tickets to a semi-staged concert version of Amazon Apocalypse and a special Valentine’s Day farewell performance are now on sale.

Reached by phone, Blackwood added that while he still considers the landlords to have been the company’s “benefactors,”around New Year’s Day, the whispers that the building might be sold became too conclusive to ignore.

“There was just something about the clarity of the news on the first, when we realized, ‘OK, it’s time to announce.’ This is not going to be a situation where we still are able to rehearse and maybe do a truncated run of Scrumbly’s show.”

Scrumbly Koldewyn and Russell Blackwood (David Allen)
Scrumbly Koldewyn and Russell Blackwood (David Allen)

That would be Amazon Apocalypse – or How the Devil Came to Save the Planet, Koldewyn’s newest production, which will see only three performances next month (Feb. 9-11), and even then, it’s a staged reading. Although Blackwood was optimistic about the possibility of revivals at some unspecified future date, it does seem as though this is the end, as the company will hold a rummage sale at the theater on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25-26, to clear out costumes and props.

“What we had there was so extraordinary,” Blackwood added. “There were enough elements to having that home at the price that we had it that the company developed in a certain way, and we thrived in that environment and radically changing what that environment would be, financially, physically, and aesthetically may well not be attractive.”

They had always known the day was coming, which was why the Thrillpeddlers only announced one show at a time, and never sold season tickets. On top of this news, he and his husband, fellow Thrillpeddler James Toczyl, are grieving over the passing of Toczyl’s father this weekend.

So it appears to be the end of a very successful era. But once a Thrillpeddler, always a Thrillpeddler, right?

“Oh yes,” Blackwood said. “I always say there are Thrillpeddlers I haven’t met yet.”

 

The Thrillpeddlers will stage three performances each of Naked Dudes Reading Lovecraft (Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-29) and a “semi-staged concert” of Amazon Apocalypse – or How the Devil Came to Save the Planet (Thursday – Saturday, Feb. 9-11), along with a farewell benefit on Tuesday, Feb 14. Tickets available at hypnodrome.org.

 

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