It's strategic planning time again at Theatre Bay Area, and one of the things that keeps coming up is community.
Editor-in-chief Sam Hurwitt
Theatre Bay Area was created by the Bay Area theatre community in the distant mists of time (1976, that is), and we still exist to support, serve and celebrate that community in a multiplicity of ways. That's at the heart of everything we do.
When I look over the September/October issue of Theatre Bay Area magazine, that through line of community is what I keep coming back to. Jean Schiffman gives us an update on how plans for a Mid-Market arts district have progressed since she last reported on them for our July/August 2012 issue, talking to PianoFight, American Conservatory Theater and the folks behind the 950 Market project on how their respective spaces are shaping up. Director/playwright Mark Jackson ponders what he observed at several international theatre festivals and what season-oriented theatres might learn from the festival model. And speaking of festivals, did you know that the San Francisco Fringe Festival is part of a whole circuit of fringe festivals, primarily in Canada, and is in fact part of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals despite the fact that SF isn't actually in Canada? Nicole Gluckstern gives some tips to those intrepid performers who might want to tour the whole circuit with their Fringe shows, or as much of it as the luck of the draw inherent in the unjuried lottery system permits.
But mostly it's the Fall Season Preview issue, in which member companies from all around the Bay offer a peek at all the shows they have coming up this autumn and winter. There are always a few folks missing who didn't send us their information, but just looking over what's coming up, I'm always amazed by the sheer volume and variety of theatrical offerings going on in the Bay Area all the time.
That ties in with the central problem we're trying to tackle in our strategic plan, that despite how blessed the Bay Area is with tons and tons of theatre—and good theatre, too—for some reason people don't think of theatre when they think of San Francisco. It's not central to the cultural conversation and experience of the Bay Area. And that's just nuts.
Obviously this situation makes it way harder than it needs to be to be a theatre artist and/or company in the Bay Area, which is no small consideration, but also, frankly, people are missing out on some potentially life-changing experiences that could not only offer a couple hours of rewarding entertainment but could also open up their whole worldview. In a country and a world where it seems like opposing sides are becoming more and more closed off to each other all the time, theatre has a unique ability to make you not only see but really feel deep in your bones how someone very different from yourself experiences the world. It can make you sympathize strongly with someone who, out in the world, you might disapprove of, or even consider an enemy. Even if it ultimately doesn't change your mind, it may well change your heart. I don't want to make any grand statement like "theatre can save the world," but...you know what? Sure I do. Theatre can totally save the world. But it can't do that if you don't even know it's going on, much less see it.
Raising that awareness is one of the things Theatre Bay Area is working on, and striving to do better at, every day—and it's central to what I do both as editor of this magazine and as a freelance theatre journalist. We love sparking dialogue in and among the theatre community, but we also want to let the greater community in on what we never intended to be a secret. Bay Area, meet Bay Area theatre. I think you're going to like each other.
Sam Hurwitt is editor-in-chief for Theatre Bay Area. He is also the author of The Idiolect, a blog about theatre, movies, comics, media and the decline and fall of Western civilization.