Free theater in the gardens

The San Francisco Theater Festival is a smorgasbord of live performance unlike any other. In the span of just one day, more than 100 acts are set to deliver a truly comprehensive sampling of what the Bay Area’s theater community has to offer. Whether it’s family-friendly theatrics from magician Brian Scott or a snippet of “The Rocky Horror Show” from the folks at Ray of Light

Theater, the free fifth annual event is certain to have something for new and old theatergoers alike.

The festival, which begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. Sunday at Yerba Buena Gardens, is designed to showcase a number of performers is bite-sized portions; each performance runs no longer than 30 minutes, allowing audiences to take in a variety of shows throughout the day.

“Sometimes theater has an intensity to it,” says producer Bill Schwartz. “You go in with this sense that you paid a lot of money and are wondering if you’re even going to enjoy what you’re about to see. In this setting, there’s a real light attitude about theater. If you’re not enjoying a show, you can quietly move on and experience something else.”

Considering that the festival boasts 85 shows on 11 stages, audiences would be hard pressed to not happen upon a performance that may potentially stir their interests, Schwartz says.

Essentially, that’s the motivation behind the festival — to showcase a diverse range of acts in an accessible environment as a means of reaching out to those who may not normally seek out live theater for entertainment.

Still, with so many performances to catch in roughly six hours, Schwartz admits that the task of choosing personal picks for the day can be a little daunting.

“If you’re a little bit more tightly wound, like myself, you could find yourself in a state of panic. You’ll have a feeling of ‘what am I missing?’ because there’s just so much to see. You have to make choices, and this is a good test for people who have decision-making problems,” he says.

Performances of particular note at this year’s San Francisco Theater Festival include:

“Sisyphus Syndrome”: A provocative jazz opera by poet and playwright Amiri Baraka.

“One Damn Man”: Aleshia Brevard and Gina Grahame present a two-woman story of gender change.

Pi: The Physical Comedy Troupe: The clowns of Pi “examine life through a lens of wonder” using mime technique, acrobatics and puppetry.

IF YOU GO

San Francisco Theater Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday

Where: Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission and Third streets, San Francisco

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 291-8655, www.sftheaterfestival.org 

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