Bigger, better digs for SF Playhouse

Courtesy PhotoNew home: San Francisco Playhouse co-founders Susi Damilano and Bill English enjoy plentiful space in the 450 Post St. theater.

Courtesy PhotoNew home: San Francisco Playhouse co-founders Susi Damilano and Bill English enjoy plentiful space in the 450 Post St. theater.

Challenging as it is for a small nonprofit theater to take a quantum leap, the San Francisco Playhouse — the downtown company that has endeared itself to audiences and critics alike since its inception in 2003 — is clearly ready. To wit: In recent times, more than 1,000 patrons were turned away over the course of a couple of popular runs.

This month, the company, which specializes in stellar productions of contemporary plays, opens its season in a nearby, but much larger, venue.

With more seats (225 including the first three rows of the balcony) than the company’s former Sutter Street space (only 100), and a bigger stage (40 feet by 40 feet instead of 20 feet by 17 feet ), the 450 Post St. theater ought to meet the company’s needs.

“We’ve been growing exponentially over the last few years and overselling,” says artistic director-actor-set designer Bill English, co-founder along with his wife, actor-director Susi Damilano.

The company currently has 2,000 subscribers plus an increasing number of single-ticket buyers. In addition, the old digs could no longer comfortably accommodate the office staff — six full-time and many part-time employees.

The company hoped to rent the Post Street theater two years ago. But the building’s lease holders had instead subleased the space to the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. After the untimely deaths of Hansberry’s co-founders Stanley Williams and Quentin Easter in 2010, incoming artistic director Steven Anthony Jones decided to scale down operations and opted out of the lease.

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 12px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

In a flurry of activity before next week’s opening of the rock musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” English and crew extended the stage by covering the first six rows of seats with plywood, reconfigured the seating into curved rows, curtained off the side alcoves of the house to maximize intimacy and enhance the acoustics, and other improvements.

The theater is on the second floor of the almost-90-year-old, Elks-owned building, which also houses the Kensington Park Hotel, the Farallon Restaurant and other businesses; local independent producer Jonathan Reinis transformed it into Theatre on the Square in 1982 and ran it for 22 years.

With an annual budget of about $1.1 million and a union contract, SF Playhouse is better positioned now to compete in the marketplace for access to new scripts and, as English says, be more adventurous scenically: “Thanks to Meyer Sound, who gave us a tremendous discount on a sound system, and a donor who gave us an entire lighting system, it’s going to be first-class.”

artsBill EnglishSF PlayhouseSusi Damilano

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Diners at Teeth, a bar in the Mission District, on July 9, 2021. Teeth began using digital menus based on QR code technology in August. (Ulysses Ortega/The New York Times)
The football stadium at UC Berkeley, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. George Kliavkoff, a former top executive at MGM Resorts International, took over the conference at the start of the month. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
What’s Ahead for the Pac-12? New commissioner weighs in

‘Every decision we make is up for discussion. There are no sacred cows.’

The sidewalk on Egbert Avenue in the Bayview recently was cluttered with car parts, tires and other junk. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
New surveillance effort aims to crack down on illegal dumping

’We want to make sure we catch people who are trashing our streets’

As the world reeled, tech titans supplied the tools that made life and work possible. Now the companies are awash in money and questions about what it means to win amid so much loss. (Nicolas Ortega/The New York Times)
How tech won the pandemic and now may never lose

By David Streitfeld New York Times In April 2020, with 2,000 Americans… Continue reading

Most Read