Getting Around: 10 Theatres within 10 Minutes of Public Transit
Monday, November 23, 2015
By Alan Kline
Bay Area theatregoers know all too well that highway, bridge and tunnel traffic can be intense. Some have chosen to eschew cars entirely, relying on public transit to get them where they need to go. If you are one of these brave and resourceful theatregoers—or if you aspire to be one—this list is for you!
Because we love expanding horizons, we've skipped over some of the more obvious downtown SF spots near transit: American Conservatory Theater, Exit Theatre, the Cutting Ball Theater, SF Playhouse and others in the so-called San Francisco Business Improvement District (but here's a piece on those). Instead, we hope you'll find your way to the companies listed below—and add your own favorites in the comments section!
Note: All time estimates below are drawn from Google Maps walk times.
1. Best in Close: Shotgun Players was challenging and delighting audiences with their work for 12 years before they settled down at their current home, the Ashby Stage, in 2004. Literally across the street from Ashby BART in Berkeley, it is an easy, two-minute stroll across a lit parking lot to see a Shotgun show. Info at shotgunplayers.org.
2. Heads up on Downtown: Downtown Berkeley BART is close to not one, but two award-winning theatres on the same street. Virtually next-door neighbors, Aurora Theatre Company and Berkeley Repertory Theatre are a mere two minutes away from public transit. Aurora, the smaller of the two, calls itself a "chamber theatre" company, priding itself on intimate professional productions. Berkeley Rep is a nationally renowned company with two stages and a history of hits that go on to play across the country and around the world. Info at auroratheatre.org and berkeleyrep.org.
|The Marsh Berkeley Arts Center. Photo: Courtesy of The Marsh
3. You’re Not Seeing Double: New-work incubator The Marsh has two different venues in two different cities, each within ten minutes of two different BART stations. A seven-minute walk from the 24th Street Mission BART station will bring you to The Marsh SF, the company’s original home. If you find yourself at Downtown Berkeley BART, you’re only two minutes away from its second venue, The Marsh Berkeley Arts Center. The company is renowned for its solo show productions, which often play at both venues, so you’ll never miss a show. Info at themarsh.org.
|The stairway of the Julia Morgan-designed Berkeley
City Club, home to ensemble company Central Works.
Photo: Courtesy of Berkeley City Club
4. Go for Gorgeous: Just a bit farther from Downtown Berkeley BART, a 10-minute hop on foot, is the landmark Berkeley City Club, an unusually lovely miniature castle designed by Julia Morgan. Resident company Central Works produces four original shows a year there, using an ensemble-based collaborative process. Info at centralworks.org.
5. Edgy and Accessible: Oakland’s newest theatre venue is the Flight Deck, a three-minute saunter from Oakland's 12th Street BART station. Four exciting companies call this site home: Ragged Wing Ensemble, which creates unusual, immersive, physical new works; the Aluminous Collective, a multimedia theatre company telling "multidimensional stories"; Gritty City Repertory Youth Theatre, making a safe space for young adults from Oakland to create new work; and The Lower Bottom Playaz, a group in the Black Arts tradition
whose inspiring goal is to be the first company to perform all of August Wilson’s Century Cycle plays in chronological order. Info at theflightdeck.org.
|The free Cal Shakes shuttle totes transit riders before and after every performance. Photo: Jay Yamada
6. Shuttle to Shakespeare: The Bruns Amphitheatre has been home to California Shakespeare Theater for 16 years. Car-driving types know that the venue is right off of Highway 24, but the company has made sure that their outdoor classics remain accessible to public transit fans, too. A free shuttle, whisking riders from Orinda BART to the Bruns in about 10 minutes, starts running two hours before curtain to allow time for a preshow picnic in the grove. Thereafter, it runs every 20 minutes (on the hour, 20 minutes after and 40 minutes after, with some variation due to traffic), with the last pickup about 30 minutes before curtain. Return trips available after the show. Info at calshakes.org.
7. Spectacular Spectacular: Many know that the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek is a multistage venue that serves both as the home of Center REPertory Company and as a regular performance space for dozens of other groups, including Contra Costa Musical Theatre, Lamplighters and OMG, I Love that Show! Productions. Many don't know that a ten-minute walk from Walnut Creek BART station, through the charming downtown area, can transport you to dozens of musicals and plays. Info at lesherartscenter.org.
8. Host of the Most: Amazingly, the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts hosts over 50 performing arts organizations, including its home theatre company, the award-winning TheatreWorks, and the energetic Peninsula Youth Theatre. Like the Dean Lesher in Walnut Creek, this venue is just a ten-minute walk through downtown from the Mountain View Caltrain station. Info at mountainview.gov/depts/cs/mvcpa/subsite.
9. Double-Header Time! Both Dragon Productions Theatre Company and the Fox Theatre Redwood City are even closer to Cal Train. Once you reach the Redwood City Caltrain station, you can groove on over to the Dragon Theatre within six minutes, or mosey up to the Fox—with its mix of concerts, speaker events and theatre (including classic musicals put on by Broadway By the Bay)—in five minutes. Info at dragonproductions.net and foxrwc.com.
10. Pillar of the Community: The 30-plus-year-old New Conservatory Theatre Center runs three performance spaces in the lower level of 25 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Treasured for its youth programs and focus on queer and allied theatre, NCTC's venue is just a 10-minute walk down Market Street from Civic Center BART...or a one-minute hoof from the Van Ness Muni station! Info at nctcsf.org.
There are dozens of other theatre venues within 10 minutes of a public transit hub. Name your favorites in the comments below!
Alan Kline is marketing resources manager for Theatre Bay Area. He is also a busy social dance teacher and DJ, and champion of transit-friendly theatres.