Climate change - Page 4

How does a small, intrepid theater company survive — and thrive — in turbulent economic times? Look to SoMa's Climate Theater

The Climate's programming stretches beyond the average small theater fare and its audience, to encompass a range of performance and visual art styles and solid Bay Area microscenes — like those around clowning or belly dance — as well as a laidback, brew-in-hand atmosphere of cultured fun, or just funny culture, amenable to a more general bar-hopping crowd.

The first show Heidt produced, You Tubed, a performance series codirected by the artistic director and Richard Ciccarone, was a crowd-pleasing blend of quotidian Internet technology and live reenactments. At the same time, Climate is also making forays into exploratory works in other media: one of Heidt's first initiatives was establishing both a music and (now defunct) film series. She also repeatedly brought in acclaimed clown and Cirque de Soleil vet John Gilkey's rollicking band of bad-boy "anticlowns," Your New Best Friends.

"The great thing about this space is that we get to try stuff out and to be much more experimental," Gilkey explains, taking a break from rehearsing a new show he's developing for the Climate stage. Gilkey's association with the Climate runs back at least 15 years, but it's not nostalgia that brings him back.

"The history of San Francisco is that of producing amazing clowns," he says, citing Geoff Hoyle, Bill Irwin, and Larry Pisoni. "I think we have to push a lot harder to be more subversive, more daring, and bolder in the kind of clown we're creating. This is the place that has open doors for the forward stuff, and that's what excites me."

Climate's forward programming last month included installments of the Wednesday night Music Box concerts; another Improv Soapbox open jam session hosted by resident champs Crisis Hopkins; the Monday night Clown Cabaret directed by Paoli Lacy and showcasing students and grads from the Clown Conservatory, as well as faculty and seasoned clowns of the likes of Gilkey, Joel Salom, and James Donlon; another boisterous staging of the matchmaking show and runaway hit, The Dating Game; and Unseen/Unsaid, one in a series of irregular, curated, multi-artist, multidisciplinary, and multi-roomed art parties.

Looking back at its history, the Climate's success then, and now, has resided in its talent for bridging not just disciplines and genres, but audiences and whole scenes in what was once — and increasingly is again — a flourishing hub of arts and nightlife in SoMa. While it remains to be seen if this gradual crawl back to life can weather the full brunt of the coming economic storm, Heidt's sloth theory dovetails comfortably with her vision of a diverse but tight-knit artistic community.

Her extensive theater background has held her in good stead: Heidt knows how to produce, direct, and write grants — although ticket sales are still the main source of operation revenue. At the same time, she's been inspired by what she was not familiar with. "For me that's been one of the most exciting things about being here — going to Burning Man, knowing it's a city of crazy artists, incredibly talented people, and it's all sort of below the surface of what you're seeing in the mainstream," she says. "To be able to tap into that world a little has been really fun."

As for Bullock and Crosby, who both have remained deeply involved in the culture and organizing of Burning Man and its year-round Bay Area events, they are clearly gratified with a direction they see as consonant with the theater's long, remarkably fruitful tradition of cultivating crossover communities and promoting the edgy, fun, experimental, and unexpected. "She's doing the kind of programming that we used to do," says Bullock, "which is eclectic."

I'm hearing echoes again. "South of Market is starting to come back," he continues. "I think there's a resurrection of the arts right now.

Also from this author

  • Meta-boredom

    A play's 'playwright' can't keep his mind focused on the subject at hand in 'The Late Wedding'

  • Bearing it all

    Keith Hennessy offers a work-in-progress showing of solo 'Bear/Skin'


    Daring new works at Portland, Ore.'s Time-Based Art Festival