Playing safe at the Fire Cabaret

Performers conference with Crucible creative director Michael Sturtz before HEAT: the Fire Cabaret (Fri/16 and Sat/17)
Photo by Caitlin Donohue (sorry)

This from Michael Sturtz, creative director of the berth of the Bay's fire community, the Crucible. This weekend (Fri/16 and Sat/17), HEAT: the Fire Cabaret, rises up like a sultry phoenix, an onstage imagining of a flame speakeasy during fire Prohibition at whose “height, lighters and matches were confiscated.” Involved in the production:


1 flaming entryway

4 large fire sculptures

30 fire safety staff each night

60 security staff (“for crowd management, and to make sure no photographers cross any lines”)

30-40 onstage fire sources

100 isolated fire sources in all

150 fire extinguishers (“maybe upwards of a few hundred, it's hard to tell”)


“It's kind of like our own fire department,” Sturtz told me this morning, still a little groggy from the Cabaret's first and only dress rehearsal last night. But it's not all about flames and iron. 

Last night at the run-through, which was the first time performers and live music had taken the stage together, I saw evidence enough that the production is hot to handle. The stage (made entirely of re-purposed steel crafted into an apocalyptic distillery by what Sturtz affectionately termed "the Crucible community") was birthing speakeasy scenes that swerved between sexy and... well I guess I should get over calling what the circus folks do dangerous, it's just a little nerve-wracking for us momma-type squares. Tracy Piper, straight out of an R. Crumb cartoon in denim Daisy Dukes and scuffed black playa boots, mixed acrobatic archings and seductive glass blowing, while performers Scarlett and Axelrod, Fleeky Flanco, and Jennings and Xiaohong hornily stalked around her in the first act, guiding ray guns of fire blasts, balancing on wooden blocks, seducing each other wildly. Corsets, fishnets, flame retardant costumes go! 

Off stage -- there's more? Damn, there's more! The Crucible staff has cooked up all manner of sparks to light your fire between on stage acts. The usuals; torch wielding burlesque, dance welders, vintage cars, booze. Of the performer's crossover between the technical and artistic, Sturtz was comfortably matter of fact, very apropos of the mind that founded the organization itself back in 1999; "It's easier to teach a singer how to weld than a welder how to sing.”

Dig. See you there – in 1920s flapper wear, please. Just be careful with that fringe.


HEAT: A Fire Cabaret

Fri/16 and Sat/17 7 p.m., $43-48

The Crucible 

1260 7th St., Oak.

(510) 444-0919

Also from this author

  • Jock joints

    The 420 Games and weed-smoking pro athletes counter the image of lazy potheads

  • H. Brown: Goodbye to all that, we hope

  • H. Brown: Goodbye to all that, we hope