Whenever I've visited New York, people have asked what the theater scene is like here. I can't be objective, really, and besides, what in San Francisco isn't theater? My take on it may be partly due to my introduction to S.F.: Right after I moved here in the fall of '89, I started working for a theater company, El Teatro de la Esperanza. Esperanza has a tradition of ending each weekly staff meeting with a chisme (Spanish for "gossip") report and, hence, I quickly got the inside track on local theater life.
About that time, I attended a performance of Guillermo Gomez-Pena at the now defunct Life on the Water theater. After the show, artist and audience headed to the Marina's overrated Wave Organ, where some arrhythmic New Age wankers were drumming to the moon. They set the stage and we carried on, and I began to see that theater in this town simply does not start and end with the rise and fall of a curtain.
Bear with me, because I have a lot of people to acknowledge, and they deserve their propers: the extended Esperanza family, including Val and Bill, who quickly turned S.F. into "home" for me; the old Life on the Water gang -- Joe Lambert, producer extraordinaire Susan Sillins, and the awesomely inspiring Ellen Sebastian; Ellen Gavin and Cherre Moraga, models of strength and vision from Brava!; Brian Freeman and Pomo Afro Homos, who provided me the first story I ever did for a New York publication, the Village Voice; Baraka Sele, of Center for the Arts, who has fought the good fight. And to the sources who leaked some of the more controversial stories I have explored in this space -- well, your secrets weren't safe with me, but your names are. Thanks for the dirt.
In 1992 I wrote a cover story for SF Weekly about the fate of local theater -- it bore the ominous title "The Final Curtain?" Happily, a few years later, we can see that though some theaters closed and others transmogrified, things are looking up. Z Space Studio's incubator has helped birth productions; the Magic cut its losses and revamped its vision; Carey Perloff, for better or for worse, has breathed life into ACT; and small theaters like Thick Description offer adventurous productions, while Climate's Solo Mio Festival continues to thrive. Funding is indeed slipping away, but talent and passion still exist in this town. My wish for y'all is to hang tough and keep on keeping on. I will.
By Laura Jamison