Stages for Sale
San Jose Redevelopment Agency, which ceased operations in February, is preparing to sell 34 properties that it owns in an effort to pay down some of the former agency’s $4 billion debt. Among the properties (which include a fire station, a vacant hotel and a parking garage) are two downtown theatres: the Jose Theater and San Jose Stage Company.
Of the properties listed for sale, most come with some form of restriction on their use. One thing the City Council does not want to see happen is for the two theatres on the list to be torn down for high-rise development. The Jose on South Second Street is a city landmark and home to San Jose Improv. It is estimated at a $2 million market value but it is linked to a federal housing deal. San Jose Stage at 490 South First Street is housed inside an old Goodyear tire store, but it is expected to continue as a performing arts venue. Its estimated value is $1.2 million.
Last June, state lawmakers voted to shut down all of the state’s redevelopment agencies and divert their funding to schools and other local services. That required the agency’s assets to be sold. San Jose’s redevelopment agency was the state’s second largest in terms of property tax revenue. The properties identified so far for sale would amount to approximately $60 million. —Lee Kopp
Gamelan Sekar Jaya performing in the Rotunda Series at San Francisco City Hall.
Photo: Kegan Marling
Free Dance in Public Spaces
Summer is a great time to catch free dance performances, and the City abounds with beautiful public spaces for the performing arts—some of them surprising, all of them unique to San Francisco. Take City Hall, which is now the home for the Rotunda Series, free noontime programming presented by Dancers’ Group and World Arts West. Groups as diverse as the San Francisco Ballet Trainee Program and performance artist Monique Jenkinson (“Fauxnique”) have performed here. Dancers’ Group executive director Wayne Hazzard says, “We see schoolkids, couples marrying and others doing business at City Hall at these events. We’re making dance visible and providing quality programming free of charge.” In August, look for AXIS Dance Company creating dance with physically challenged performers. The series presents Duniya Dance and Drum Company, SoulForce Dance Company and Los Lupeños de San Jose this fall.
In its eighth year, Union Square Live presents an ambitious lineup of free music, dance, films and circus events in the downtown. The tourist mecca of Union Square fills with throngs of people for shows on Sunday afternoons, at lunchtime on Wednesdays, and on Wednesday evenings, when tango and salsa lessons are the norm. In addition to circus artists with the Picklewater Free Circus Festival, Alleluia Panis Dance Theater and Jay Loyola perform in September.
The series is managed by MJM Management, and spokeswoman Mary McCue offers, “What makes San Francisco great is not just its natural beauty, but its vibrant, dynamic public spaces. Our programs bring the square to life and makes it so much more than just a place to take a break from shopping.”
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival presents what director Linda Lucero calls “six months of the hippest, most happening artists anywhere.” Programming takes place at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from May through October and will feature Hawaiian dance troupe Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu in July.
If you prefer to see dance in a more natural setting, visit the Stern Grove Festival near Sloat Avenue. In July, San Francisco Ballet presents its popular annual free performance set among the verdant landscape of the Grove. —Kathryn Roszak
Ryan Rilette. Photo: Lester Ng
Marin Theatre Company producing director Ryan Rilette left the company at the end of June to take the post of producing artistic director at Maryland’s Round House Theatre near Washington, DC. Former Aurora Theatre Company managing director Sandra Weingart, who’s worked at MTC over the last year as interim finance director and an administrative consultant, has stepped in as interim managing director while the company conducts a nationwide search for a permanent successor. Rilette came to MTC four and a half years ago from New Orleans’s Southern Rep Theatre, where he was producing artistic director.
During Rilette’s time at MTC, the theatre increased revenue from $1.8 million in 2008 to a projected $3.2 million in 2012, became a member of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), expanded to six main stage productions each season, established an off-site scene shop, created a $500K artistic and operating reserve fund and ended every season with a profit. The production of Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage” in June was the latest of many plays he directed for the company over the last few seasons.
“Ryan and I had talked for years about running a company together, and the resulting partnership here at MTC has been both a prosperous and joyous one,” says artistic director Jasson Minadakis. “Ryan’s leadership has helped propel the theatre to new levels both locally and nationally. He departs a company much stronger for his tenure.” —Sam Hurwitt
Arrive, Breathe and Be Awesome
American Conservatory Theater and San Francisco’s Downtown Continuation High School have recently completed the first year of their partnership, the Acting for Critical Thought project. The school, located in Potrero Hill, serves teenagers who have struggled in traditional high schools; ACT provided 70 of its students with weekly acting classes, opportunities to study a range of theatre arts as well as to examine social systems of oppression and identity, and invitations to attend every one of the theatre’s main-stage and conservatory productions. With these tools and encouragement from their instructors, the students learned to write and perform their own short plays and monologues.
“Studies have shown, again and again, that engagement in the arts is a powerful and effective means of helping young people develop creativity, critical thinking skills, confidence and empathy,” says ACT director of education Elizabeth Brodersen. “It’s one thing to read that in a report and another thing entirely to watch teenagers step out onto a brightly lit stage for the first time and courageously tell their own intensely personal dramatic stories.”
The next step involved bringing in 826 Valencia, a nonprofit that helps young people develop their writing skills. Octavio Solis, award-winning Bay Area playwright, signed on to coach the students through the steps of publishing the work they had developed. Says Solis of the students, “I am struck by the bravery of their writing. Taking on the dual themes of resistance and resilience, they have composed a startlingly frank collection of scenes and monologues.”
This massive collaborative effort resulted in the book “Arrive, Breathe, and Be Still” (available for preorder on Amazon.com); the title comes from a favorite phrase of the lead acting teacher Nick Gabriel, describing how an actor should prepare to perform a scene. Each semester of the Acting for Critical Thought project culminates in a showcase of students performing their work; the spring semester showcase took place on May 17. —Laura Brueckner
The board and staff of Arclight Repertory Theatre voted unanimously to cease artistic operations immediately as of June 1, citing an inability to sustain itself in the current economic climate. Founded by David Koppel in Alameda in 2006, Arclight’s first full production was “As You Like It,” which doubled as the first Shakespeare play performed at Altarena Playhouse in that theatre’s nearly 80-year history. Soon moving its home base to San Jose, Arclight started an annual Shakespeare on the Square festival in that city’s San Pedro Square. The company also developed new work through its Sparklight series and produced theatre education workshops for at-risk youth. Erstwhile Arclight artistic director Koppel was recently hired as the drama director at Mountain View High School and plans to focus his energies on developing the school’s theatre program.
Let the Sun Shine In
California Shakespeare Theater has become one of the largest solar-powered outdoor professional theatres in the country, installing 144 260-watt solar panels and four 9,000-watt inverters to supply up to 98 percent of the Bruns Amphitheater’s power needs. “Our decision to go solar was more than just economically motivated,” says Cal Shakes managing director Susie Falk. “With our home sitting on a protected watershed, environmental stewardship is in Cal Shakes’s nature. Our recent renovations at the Bruns created native plant habitats, a living roof, bioswales and other sustainable features. The addition of solar power was therefore a natural but nonetheless tremendously exciting step in our environmental evolution.”
Value of New Work Not Lost on Funders
The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recently announced a new $300,000 fund for the creation and production of new plays by California playwrights. Bay Area nonprofit theatres and arts organizations can apply for grants of $50,000 each to commission and produce new work; plays must premiere between June 2013 and June 2015. Applicant organizations must be located in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano or Sonoma County. Due August 30, applications are available at gerbode.org.
SCTA Waving, May Still Drown
In a potentially huge blow to the arts on campus, the Solano Community College Board of Trustees met on May 16 to discuss cutting all funding for the Solano College Theatre Association (SCTA), whose annual budget is $750,000, and replacing it with a smaller organization of faculty and students at $100,000 per year. The SCTA employs nine full-time and 23 part-time staff members; manages venue rentals of the Campus Theater and the Suisun City Harbor Theater; provides costume, set, prop and equipment rentals; assists with running tech for shows; and handles ticket sales and marketing for numerous events. After hearing a number of impassioned theatre supporters state their views, the board voted to delay its decision about implementing the cuts. It is, however, pressed to address the school’s $4.8 million deficit in the coming year’s budget, so it’s clear that this is a reprieve, not a pardon.
Bay Area choreographer Mark Foehringer, artistic director of Mark Foehringer Dance Project|SF, has been awarded a second Fulbright Scholar grant in Peru. On his first fellowship in 2007, he worked with the National Ballet School in Lima. This time, Foehringer will create a full-length dance program with the Ballet Nacional del Peru and teach in the fall at the Universidad Nacional de San Marcos. Additionally, Foehringer will travel to the Peruvian island of Amantani for five days, where he will work with the local population to create a new dance piece, which will have only one performance. He will be joined on the Amantani project by two dancers from his San Francisco company, Heather Cooper and Brian Fisher, and two dancers from Ballet San Marcos; Bay Area videographer/documentarian Austin Forbord will shoot footage of both the development process and the final performance.
Brother, Can You Spare Some Frequent Flyer Miles?
Bay Area playwright Garret Jon Groenveld is a winner of the Internationalists’ 2012 International Playwriting Contest for his play “The Hummingbirds.” Groenveld’s keen “comedy of menace,” already a 2012 Aurora Theatre Global Age Project winner, focuses on two staff members in a near-future dystopian unemployment office (is there any other kind?) and the absurdities and violence of their world, which looks disconcertingly similar to ours. The Internationalists, a collective of directors from around the world, selected Groenveld’s play out of 165 submissions from 26 countries; the four finalists are writers from Nigeria, Belgium and Belarus, as well as another Bay Area writer, George Brant. The award has no monetary component, but secures readings and possibly productions for “The Hummingbirds” in New York, Berlin, the Hague, Bucharest, Mexico City and Zaragoza, Spain. For each presentation, the play will be translated into the host country’s language.
Local comedy troupe Crisis Hopkins has decided to call it quits after six years performing improv and sketch comedy around the Bay Area. The democratically run group started at the Dark Room in San Francisco’s Mission District and soon started regular gigs at the Climate, Stage Werx, the San Francisco Improv Festival and Lafayette’s Town Hall Theatre. And...scene.
Love of Labor
The Bay Area Advisory Committee of Actors Equity Association will be participating in LaborFest this year for the first time. The BAAC will present a staged reading of a piece entitled “Mixed Relief,” which details the beginnings of the Works Progress Administration with a special focus on women (Anzia Yezierska, Dorothy West, Eudora Welty, Eleanor Roosevelt, et al.). The event is at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 23 at Plumbers’ Union Hall in SF, and is a benefit for the Actor’s Fund.
Waiter, There’s a Play in My Soup
In February, Play Cafe, Inc. (formerly Playwrights Cafe) was awarded 501(c)(3) status—designating it as a nonprofit organization and opening up the range of available granting opportunities. The 14-year-old group has held over 170 playwright meetings, presented 20 staged readings and sponsored a production in the San Francisco Fringe Festival. Executive director and playwright Tracy Held Potter said that the group’s new status will “help us achieve our mission of providing more and better resources for Bay Area playwrights.”
Carmel’s Pacific Repertory Theatre recently received three sizable grants that will give a big boost to its 2012 season and educational programs. The Barnet Segal Charitable Trust, which in 2011 gave PacRep $50,000 toward renovation of its Golden Bough Playhouse, has awarded an additional $10,000 to the theatre to sponsor its 2012 professional season. Meanwhile, the Nancy Buck Ransom Foundation handed over $50,000 to support PacRep’s School of Dramatic Arts (SoDA) and its Tix4Kids program, which supplies heavily discounted tickets to children under 12. Finally, PacRep received a $10,000 general operating grant from the New York–based Shubert Foundation, which will be used to support this year’s professional season.
Wait, Did They Say Retirement Savings?
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, as part of a new $5.775 million funding initiative “to expand artistic and personal freedom for creative leaders in the fields of jazz, contemporary dance and theater,” has selected Marc Bamuthi Joseph, director of performing arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, as one of its 21 grant recipients. Joseph, a prolific and award-winning artist whose work has toured nationally and internationally—and whose creations cross boundaries between spoken word, theatre, dance and hip hop—is also an educator with gigs at Stanford and Mills under his belt, an essayist and a cultural activist who has founded and/or curated a number of educational and arts nonprofits for youth and challenged urban populations.
Under this new initiative, Joseph and the other grantees will each receive an unrestricted, multiyear cash grant of $225,000, plus as much as $50,000 more for retirement savings (yep!) and audience development. Other 2012 grantees include Rinde Eckert, a former Bay Area artist, and Young Jean Lee, a playwright whose play “Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven” recently had its West Coast premiere as a Crowded Fire Theater/Asian American Theater Company coproduction.
High School Babylon
At a gala event on June 4, the Steve Silver Foundation and “Beach Blanket Babylon” announced the winners of their 2012 Scholarship for the Arts. Out of nine finalists from local high schools who competed in that night’s performance at Club Fugazi, actor Nicolas Chuba of Santa Rosa High School, dancer Mariko Ishikawa of San Mateo’s Aragon High School and singer Jake Brinskele of Sonoma Academy each won $10,000 toward their college education. Judges included San Francisco Opera’s Zheng Cao, Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone, composers Gordon Getty and Jake Heggie, KMEL’s Chuy Gomez, ODC artistic director Brenda Way, rapper MC Hammer, Cal Shakes artistic director Jonathan Moscone, ABC7’s Don Sanchez, SF Symphony maestro Michael Tilson Thomas, ACT artistic director Carey Perloff and jazz singer Paula West, with radio DJ Don Bleu as emcee.
Gone to the Dogs
Bus Barn Stage Company artistic director Barbara Cannon has decided to leave the company, and in fact to leave theatre for a while. In August Cannon goes back to school to get a degree in assistance dog education from Bergin University of Canine Studies. Cannon says that when she graduates in 2013, she hopes to work with disabled veterans, matching them with service dogs.
Chim Chim Cher-ee
Ten Chimneys Foundation has announced that Bay Area actors Colman Domingo and Nick Gabriel have been selected to be two of the 10 Lunt-Fontanne Fellows for 2012. In July these actors join Broadway legend Joel Grey for a weeklong master class at Ten Chimneys, the historic landmark estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin. American Conservatory Theater core company member Gabriel was nominated for the honor by ACT, and New York–based Bay Area émigré Domingo was nominated by TheatreWorks, which presents the West Coast premiere of the actor/playwright’s play “Wild with Happy” next year.
Can’t Spell Hope Without Hoyle
On June 30, Dell’Arte International awarded its 2012 Prize of Hope to local physical comedy treasure Geoff Hoyle and his son, monologist Dan Hoyle. “Geoff Hoyle has been an inspiration to Dell’Arte as long as we have known him,” says Joan Schirle, Dell’Arte’s founding artistic director, “all the way back to his days with the Pickle Family Circus as Mr. Sniff.” Hoyle the elder has taught at Dell’Arte School in the past, and Dell’Arte presented the younger Hoyle’s first solo show, “The Circumnavigator,” in 2004. The Prize of Hope was established in 1987 by the Danish Institute for Popular Theater; Dell’Arte became its U.S. partner in 2008, awarding the prize every other year in Blue Lake, California.
Kathleen Elizabeth Davis Scott, known as Keite, passed away peacefully May 7 after a brief illness at the age of 37. She was an accomplished actor and singer seen in many productions at California Theatre Center, San Jose Stage Company, Foothill Music Theatre and Bus Barn Stage Company, among others, and had been the lead singer and lyricist for the rock band Diminishing Returns. A Bay Area native, she grew up in Belmont and had recently moved to San Francisco from Palo Alto. She is survived by her husband, Kenny Scott; her parents, Mike and Judie Davis; and her brothers Sven and Johnny Davis.
Gregory R. Tate died June 3 at a cancer center outside of Chicago at the age of 60. A Chicago native, Tate served as the master electrician at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre in the 1980s and became a company member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe in 1988, acting in or cowriting six of the troupe’s summer shows and serving as lead writer on SFMT’s first Youth Theater Festival Play, “Gotta Getta Life.” He later worked for the Soweto Youth Drama Society in Johannesburg, South Africa, and cofounded HartBeat Ensemble in Hartford, Connecticut.
For sale: San Jose Stage Company.
Newsfeed July-August 2012 by / Theatre Bay Area StaffPublished 2012-07-19
Stages for Sale
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