Slacker Stalker (slackerstalker) wrote,
Slacker Stalker

Roll call! 1997 SF Bay Guardian list of performance art spaces

 I am trying to cull papers in my apartment in preparation for my 42nd birthday party and I have been predictably sidetracked by a bag of ephemera from 1997. 

A clipping from the SF Bay Guardian, dated April 2, 1997, lists the hottest venues for "underground" performance art in SF at the time.

I couldn't resist. All cleaning stopped while I hit the Googly machine-- who is still kicking? Turns out, 42% of the list is still showcasing public art.


By the way, I don't think an arts space existing is - in and of itself - a reason it should always exist. Places like the Grasshopper Palace were never intended to be permanent institutions. I won't weep for small arts projects that come and go just because they didn't become some giant legacy non-profit. The old gives way to the new.

But I can only trust and hope that there is new.

THAT is something I don't have time for-- to assess what has come to replace the 58% that is gone -- and also to assess just how OFTEN performances go up in the 42% of venues that are still technically operational.

BUT ANYWAY - here is the list and my findings and a few random reminiscences - and please, remember, it's not fair to get furious about performance art venues dying in SF if you can't get yourself together to go patronize the ones that are still open:

April 2, 1997, SF Bay Guardian: "Where to Go"
from "A Special Guide - Performance Underground - Nina Siegal uncovers San Francisco's subterranean stage scene"
Number of theaters listed: 52
Number definitely still kicking (still an arts venue of some kind): 22
Percentage of retention: 42%
450 Geary Studio Theatre - presumed gone
848 Community Space - became CounterPulse (
ATA - Artists' Television Access - unbelievably, still kicking (
Actors Theatre of San Francisco - closed
Alcazar Theatre - still around, wouldn't call this an underground venue (
Bannam Place Theater - closed
Bay Area Playwrights' Festival at the Magic Theatre - still kicking (
Bayfront Theatre- leetle theatre still kicking, all- improv! (
Bayview Opera House - still kicking (
Bindlestiff Studio - still kicking (
Brady Street Dance Centre - closed in 1999 after 20 years because of rent increase
Brava Center for the Arts - still kicking! and awesome! (
Build - tiny wonderful illegal-rental-unit-funded full of lint exhaust from nextdoor laundromat closed in first tech boom (c. 2000), saw so much art there, breathed in so much lint
CELL (collectively explorative learning labs) Space - it held on so long, so recently closed, still sad
Center for African and African American Art and Culture - became The African American Art & Culture Complex (
CoCo Club - oh, closed so long ago in first tech boom, still sad, nothing can replace it
Collision Gallery - 417 14th St. - I presume closed, don't remember seeing anything there
Dancers' Group Studio Theater -- here's an interesting moment-- evicted in the first tech boom, they reinvented, now has about 975 members:
"Dancers’ Group was evicted from its home at 3221 22nd Street in the Mission at the height of the space-crisis that erupted from the dot-com boom in 1999. The loss of our physical space allowed Dancers’ Group to investigate its mission and services to the dance field. Since that time, Dancers’ Group has developed new services, re-granting programs and presenting opportunities for dance artists and audiences." (
Diesel Cathedral - live-work art collective "warehome" space - closed, not sure when, but I found it on this map of SF extinct art spaces:
Edinburgh Castle - still kicking, not what I'd call a struggling performance art venue, but arts events do happen there, or did (
Exit Theatre and Exit Stage Left Theatre - still kicking (
Grasshopper Palace - wow, Hank Hyena's little space, how long was that open exactly? A year or two? Where is Hank these days? OMG he has a Wikipedia page. I just friended him on FB. 
Intersection for the Arts - still kicking (
Jewelry Store - I don't remember this place, the address isn't included in the listing, presumably gone
Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint - closed end of 1999
Kimo's Lounge - closed, I think recently

The Lab - still kicking (
Luna Sea Women's Performance Project - closed - original directors left in 1998 (?) and was rekindled by new people, closed finally in 2005 - I still think about all the healing art done there, how many lives it changed
Mad Magda's Russian Team Room - closed, not sure when
Marilyn Monroe Memorial Theater - closed 2000

The Marsh - hella kicking, multiple new locations (

Mission Cultural Center - kicking (
Multi-Ethnic Theatre - Potrero neighborhood company - closed
New Conservatory Theatre - still kicking (
New Langton Arts - closed, became part of Brainwash Cafe
The Next Stage - now the Custom Made Theatre Co. - still kicking (

Noh Space - still kicking, called Theatre of Yugen now (Theatre of Yugen at NOHspace) (
ODC San Francisco - holy moly is ODC still kicking, such a successful institution (
Phoenix Theatre/Gallery - moved, but still kicking (
Red Dora's Bearded Lady - oh so sad, gone gone not forgotten (when exactly did it close? 2002? 2003?), wish they would have unplugged the fridge during performances though, it was that small
Red Rocket Theater - presumed gone
Star Cleaners - like Build, an illegal space full of lint from an old laundromat, I saw much inappropriate art and breathed in lots of smoke and lint there-- I think closed around 2001
Somar Theatre - became SOMArts - still kicking (
The Stud - still kicking ( - not really a performance art venue anymore since Trannyshack ended in 2008, but technically performancey things could still happen there
Teatro de la Esperanza - presumed closed
Theatre Rhinoceros - moved, still kicking (
Transmission Theater at Paradise Lounge - closed - I think in the first tech boom - now rubble, about to be rebuilt as a restaurant:
 -- "The former owner of Leticia's in the Castro as well as the former Line Up in SoMa (a leather bar that opened in 1979 at 7th and Harrison) is planning to turn the space into a one-stop destination for dinner and live salsa music."
A Traveling Jewish Theatre - closed in 2012 after 35 years
Venue 9 - closed (2004?) -- when Footloose ( moved to Shotwell Studios, which closed in 2013, then moved to The Garage, which just closed, just produced a show at a new venue "Piano Fight"
Victoria Theatre - still technically a venue, but not used for live performance much that I hear of (
Wise Fool Pupper Intervention - closed (2000?), one of the organizers moved, started Wise Fool New Mexico, still kicking, another started the Puppet LOVE! Festival in SF (haven't seen anything about that in a while)
Z Space Studio - moved, bigger and better than ever, took over the Theatre Artaud stage (
And I would have included (from that time):
Brainwash Cafe - still kicking, holding everloving open mics, probably the longest-running open mic venue in the city (
Climate Theater - closed in 2010

The Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts - lasted through the first tech boom, closed in 2007

I think some of these places died because of endemic structural problems (no air circulation, environmental hazards, no elevator), financial mismanagement, personality conflicts, creative stagnation. The rental price pressure was one of the deciding factors, but many of these venues did survive Tech Boom I. I hope the 42% left survives Tech Boom II. Survives and thrives through the next bust.

Again, if you like live performance art, wherever it is happening, GO SEE IT. If you can't afford tickets, these places almost invariably want volunteer ushers. If you don't have money and can't usher, STILL ask if you can get comped in, because every small performance venue is run by human beings with SOME compassion who want people to see their art. 

Before I go back to my bag of 1997 ephemera-- a moment of sadness for the many loved and lost venues. People worked so hard to keep many of you going through long hard times. People who did not make money making art. 

Much respect to the fallen.
Tags: 1997, performance art, san francisco, san francisco bay guardian, tech boom, venues
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