PlayGround reopens Potrero Hill theater

Rather than signaling a closure, paper-obscured windows at Thick House, the Potrero Hill performance venue, are a sign that something’s coming.

“It’s gonna be great,” says Jim Kleinmann, artistic director of PlayGround, a Bay Area incubator for theater that recently put on its annual short play festivals in the space.

This weekend, the site is getting a new name, Potrero Stage, and is hosting an open house during which neighbors and theater folks can get a preview of the revitalized building before performances begin next week.

“We were growing and after a long and deliberative process, our board decided that finding a permanent home was a strategic priority,” says Kleinmann, describing how PlayGround, which in two decades has presented over 185 emerging playwrights in over 650 works in various sites, entered a five-year lease.

Under the new arrangement, Crowded Fire Theater and Golden Thread Productions, which maintained offices at Thick House, will continue their residencies.

The relationship with Thick House stood out among the half-dozen locations PlayGround explored: “John Wong of Art Space, the original developer, was interested in finding someone manage the facility after Tony Kelly’s Thick Description folded in 2009,” Kleinmann says.

Renovations are extensive, including changes to the lobby, box office, backstage and dressing rooms, a new climate control system, and expanded capacity, with 99 new seats.

The debut production under the new management is the world premiere of “The Potrero Nuevo Project,” a collection of eight short plays about the history of Potrero Hill by Patricia Cotter, Victoria Chong Der, Ruben Grijalva, Garret Jon Groenveld, Genevieve Jessee, Martha Soukup, Maury Zeff and Ignacio Zulueta.

“We commissioned eight PlayGround writers to create the piece,” says Kleinmann. “It covers the breadth of our history. One playwright has been affiliated with us for 23 years and another for just two.”

Among the author group he is proud to note “50 percent are women and 50 percent are people of color.”
“It will be a race to get there,” he says amid construction clutter and workers scurrying to finish in time for opening night on Feb. 2.

The Potrero Nuevo Project
Where: Potrero Stage, 1695 18th St., S.F.
When: Opens Feb. 2; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Feb. 19
Tickets: $25 to $55
Contact: (415) 992-6677,
Note: The open houses is from noon to 3 p.m. Jan. 29.

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