Today, we’re excited to debut a new ongoing column by local theater director and box office professional, Anthony R. Miller. Every other Tuesday, alternating with Will, he’ll be presenting top five lists created to enlighten and enrich the theater minded crowd. Enjoy- and let us know what you think!
Recently a friend of mine asked via Facebook for a “Top Ten Influential and Necessary Theatre Companies in the Bay Area” List. I ran a bunch of possibilities in my head, started a few times and said “Eh fuck it”. When you attach terms like “influential” or “necessary”, it makes the list all the more daunting. I think of Rolling Stones’ Top 100 coffee table books that cost a hundred bucks, and for what? A full color three page spread on why Jimi Hendrix, something The Beatles did, or Nirvana is the greatest whatever of all time. When we have to take into account things like historical impact or cultural influence, every list starts to sound the same: kinda boring. I’d rather hear about your favorite company, your favorite band, your favorite theatrical experience, because that’s when you starting hearing about new stuff, cool stuff, different stuff. What haven’t I seen, but should? So, here are five Other Bay Area Theatre Companies you should check out.
Hoodslam– Oakland, CA
Oh, sweet wonderful Hoodslam. Call it Heavy Metal Pro Wrestling, Punk Rock WWE, I call it exactly where I want to be on a Friday Night. Performing every First Friday of the month at the Metro Opera House in Oakland, Hoodslam is a fantastic time. I’ve long considered Pro-Wrestling Theatre at its base, there’s a good guy and a bad guy. The bad guy does something so horrible you want the good guy to win. Now with Hoodslam that good guy could very well be a guy with a Bugs Bunny mask pretending to pour cocaine all over his face while entering to “Here Comes the Hot Stepper”. At Hoodslam you can see the high flying Sub-Zero vs. chauvinist pig Sal Lundy. There is no pretention here, just a bunch of people having a good time drinking beer, gathered around a wrestling ring with a giant pot cloud hanging over it.
Yes really, the cult of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Bay has had a long relationship. At some point in time there has been an RHPS cast in SF, Berkeley, Oakland, Larkspur, Petaluma, Fremont, San Jose, San Leandro, Palo Alto, and Belmont. Berkeley is especially important; the long closed UC Theater was home to Indecent Exposure, once considered the best Rocky Horror cast in Northern California. When the UC closed, they split into two new casts, The Bawdy Caste, which made its home at the Camera Cinema in San Jose and Barely Legal who moved to the Parkway in Oakland. Since then, they moved around just about everywhere. For almost 20 years, these two casts have been donning fishnets, tossing toast and putting on a fun-ass show for disenfranchised youth, gamer dorks, and rich weirdoes (Yay rich weirdoes!), every Saturday night at midnight.
Solo Sundays– San Francisco
For five years now Bruce Pachtman and Stagewerx have created an incredible incubator of one person shows. Their Solo workshop helps artists develop their shows into ten minute, thirty minute and full length productions. What’s most exciting about the work coming from Solo Sundays is the diversity of subjects. Every voice and cultural identity of San Francisco is represented on any given Sunday night. One of its most successful alumni, W. Kamau Bell used his one man show The W. Kamau Bell Curve as the template for his short-lived and controversial (Look up a debate with Lindy West and Jim Norton) show “Totally Biased” on FX.
Tourette’s Without Regrets– Oakland
What started over ten years ago in a coffee shop in Vallejo has become the largest underground arts and variety show on the entire West Coast. On the first Thursday of every month you can see what is now an institution, there’s poetry, stand-up comedy, live music, burlesque dancers, fire eaters, interactive games with the audience (such as, ‘What’s down my pants?’), a rap battle, contortionists, clowns, EVERYTHING. Hosted by Jamie DeWolf, a crazy band of half-naked ladies, a dude dressed as a badger, and a sexy elf-man stage manager, Tourettes is more than an show, it is a cultural event. It is modern day vaudeville and live entertainment unlike anything you’ve ever seen or experienced.
The Lost Church–San Francisco
In 2011, Brett and Elizabeth Cline bought an installation art gallery formerly known as the Capp Street Project and turned it into a performance space. Re-naming it the Lost Church, it became a home for musicians, storytellers, and multimedia theater. The venue itself is rad; imagine having a beautiful little stage in your living room with seats for 60 of your friends. The term they like to use to describe the work done there is “Good for the Soul”.
The reason why they are number one on my list is that they need your help. Currently they have 5 days left to raise $40K on indie go-go, with just about 10K left. The money is going towards making their venue ADA compliant, an expensive and mandatory endeavor. If they don’t complete these incredibly expensive changes, the venue closes, and that would be a huge loss. Check out their IGG site and see what their plans are, then make a little (or huge) donation to help this venue stay alive.