From traditional to classical to contemporary to avant-garde to downright insane -- performing arts space the Garage holds a little bit of everything
THEATER/DANCE In the world of performing arts, it often feels like there is a dearth of resources. The race for funding, rehearsal space, performance space, and audience attention can easily create disillusion. Lucky for San Francisco, there is a light in all this resource madness: the Garage, a small theater run by Joe Landini.
"There is a danger in believing in limited resources," Landini recently said. He believes in abundance, that there is actually plenty of room for everyone who wants to create work, and that perpetuating this kind of thinking is essential to the mission of the Garage.
An unassuming building, the Garage's little red door at 975 Howard St. leads into a modest foyer and black box theater. The basement houses a green room, dressing room, and prop closet in one. A lighting board allowing for tech support and sound can be found directly off the stage to the right of the audience seating. A single bathroom and sink are behind the stage's back curtain. Yet despite its meager facilities, the Garage is home to a surprisingly large number of artists. Approximately 120 performers from diverse disciplines enjoy residencies at the Garage every year, culminating in more than 200 shows annually.
The Garage offers two kinds of residencies for performing artists: AIRspace (artist in residence), which is geared toward queer artists, and RAW (Resident Artist Workshop), the general program. Both are 12-week residencies culminating in a two-night performance run. Artists receive four hours a week of rehearsal space, totaling 48 hours, plus publicity and technical support. Resident artists may also have the opportunity to present their works-in-progress at the informal Raw and Uncut performance series. But perhaps the pièce de résistance of all this is that it comes at no cost to the artist: the Garage provides free rehearsal space, performance space, tech support, and press.
The Garage's humble facility might be a clue to how this generosity is achieved. Another clue lies in the number of theater personnel; a friend who recently attended a Garage show commented on Landini's presence, asking who the guy was who ushered, bartended, ran tech, and was basically the Garage's ringmaster. In other words, there's no staff and no expensive facility to run either. The Garage is funded entirely by grants and ticket sales, which goes to supporting the artists.
Angela Mazziotta moved to San Francisco earlier this year after completing her BFA in dance at the University of South Florida. Although she had choreographed within her BFA program, she had little experience creating work outside the college environment. Interested in further exploring her choreographic voice, she took up a residency at the Garage in August and will be presenting her new work, SMACKdab — a piece dissecting themes of belonging — Dec. 1-2 as part of the RAW performance series. While researching the dance community before moving to San Francisco, she stumbled across the Garage's webpage and recalls feeling like the Garage sounded like a place she could start establishing herself. Mazziotta is an example of a newcomer to the SF dance scene who has been able to pursue her choreographic interests through the Garage's magnanimity.
"The Garage is a place for anyone who wants to get their dance out there," Mazziotta mused. More likely, the Garage is a place for anyone who wants to put anything out there. From traditional to classical to contemporary to avant-garde to downright insane, the breadth of the work presented at the Garage is staggering. Sometimes the Garage is sold out; other times there's a sympathetic handful — but the work goes on.