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The Fit by Carey Perloff

The Fit | A Note from the Artistic Director

I believe playwrights are the prophets of our time. And it is thrilling when a play we have spent years developing opens at a moment that makes it look ripped out of the headlines. A White Girl’s Guide to International Terrorism was commissioned over two years ago, and yet when it opened in January, the …

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Significant Other | A Note from the Artistic Director

The term “significant other” is a generic one. In the ultra-complex diversity of the ways we partner, it is a careful term that reveals no details except the “object of affection.” Who really wants to be a significant other when one could be a wife, a husband, a lover, a romantic partner, a soulmate? It’s …

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Yoga Play | A Note from the Artistic Director

Yoga Play will be the third play by Dipika Guha to be produced by San Francisco Playhouse. The first two, The Rules and In Braunau, were world premieres in our Sandbox Series. Why are we so attracted to her voice as a playwright? It is because she has a very special lens through which she …

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Empathy Heals

From the Empathy Gym | Empathy Heals

As 2019 begins, our nation remains ripped in half. Divided into camps, we refuse to understand the other side, so that the hatred between parties has become far more damaging than the agenda of either side. We cannot even hear the arguments of our adversaries, having enemized the opposition to the point where there literally …

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A White Girl’s Guide to International Terrorism | A Note from the Artistic Director

We met Chelsea Marcantel two years ago at the Humana Festival of New Plays in Louisville, Kentucky. This marvelous festival—where we have been taking our patrons for the last two seasons—is the greatest festival of new plays in the country, if not the world, and features many established and younger playwrights, their agents, artistic directors, …

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King of the Yees

King of the Yees | A Note from the Artistic Director

Not only is King of the Yees written by a local playwright, born and raised in San Francisco, but it is a San Francisco story. Set in and around Chinatown, Lauren Yee’s play not only features her Dad as a character in the play, “The King,” but features an actor playing herself, the playwright. As …

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Francis Jue in King of the Yees

Francis Jue to star in ‘King of the Yees’ by Lauren Yee

San Francisco, CA (November 2018) – San Francisco Playhouse announced casting for Lauren Yee’s King of the Yees, headlined by Obie and Lucille Lortel Award-winning actor and San Francisco native Francis Jue. The play, centered on San Francisco’s Chinatown, was inspired by Yee’s family and their deep connections within the community. Joshua Kahan Brody will …

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Mary Poppins | A Note from the Artistic Director

The version of Mary Poppins that we present on our stage hews much closer to the original spirit of P.L. Travers’s book than to the famous Disney film. In the original book, Ms Travers was much more interested in writing about the evils of the class structure in England. And as lovely as Julie Andrews …

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graveyard shift | A Note from the Artistic Director

With a commission from Playwrights’ Horizons and other leading theatre companies, prestigious awards, residencies around the country and a budding television writing career, Korde Arrington Tuttle is one of the fastest rising young writers in the United States. We are honored that our 10th Anniversary Sandbox Season will open with the original production of Mr. …

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Post-show discussions announced for ‘You Mean to Do Me Harm’

San Francisco Playhouse invites audiences to join the conversation with expert-led discussions following performances of Christopher Chen’s world premiere play You Mean to Do Me Harm. Guest speakers will include Frank H. Wu, George Kich, Dr. Leslie E. Wong, Lee Mun Wah and Geoff Jue. You Mean to Do Me Harm is a psychological exploration of …

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You Mean to Do Me Harm | A Note from the Artistic Director

We feel deeply honored to have commissioned and presented the World Premiere of You Mean to Do Me Harm by Christopher Chen. A San Francisco native and one of our nation’s most promising young playwrights, Mr. Chen is being commissioned by many of America’s leading theatres. We were also lucky to team up with The …

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Washed Up on the Potomac

Washed Up on the Potomac | A Note from the Artistic Director

The Sandbox Series at San Francisco Playhouse focuses on premiering brand new plays, but just “new” won’t do. We assess hundreds of submissions for truly unique voices, playwrights whose approach to telling stories has not been heard before and whose writing gives us a perspective we have not yet seen. Non-Player Character by Walt McGough …

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Sunday in the Park with George | A note from the Artistic Director

Since the prehistoric cave paintings where the human form was first represented in places like Altamira in Spain, we have all yearned to be remembered, to be seen, and artists have been our only access to immortality, representing us to those who would come after. Social media and selfies have reduced “being seen” to utter …

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A Note from the Artistic Director | In Braunau

When we first read In Braunau by Dipika Guha, there were only 60 pages—around two-thirds of a play. The characters and conflict had been set in motion but there was, as yet, no ending. As anyone who has written any kind of fiction will attest, it is the finish to a story that is the …

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A Note from the Artistic Director | An Entomologist’s Love Story

Every world premiere arrives at our stage via its own unique path. An Entomologist’s Love Story began when Melissa Ross won an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant to create a play about the lives of scientists. She went to work as an intern at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, immersing herself …

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King of the Yees

San Francisco Playhouse Announces 2018-19 Season

San Francisco Playhouse (Artistic Director Bill English; Producing Director Susi Damilano) announced today the six plays that will comprise its 2018-19 Mainstage Season. Opening the season with a play commissioned and developed by the Playhouse, You Mean to Do Me Harm by Christopher Chen, the company strengthens its commitment to new voices in theatre. The …

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‘The Effect’ – A Note from the Artistic Director

The inspiration for The Effect came when an actual drug trial conducted by the American pharmaceutical company PAREXEL, held at Northwick Park Hospital in London, went terribly wrong. Some of the volunteers suffered horrific side effects, including organ failure and lost fingers and toes. The scandal played across all the London tabloids. Lucy Prebble, the …

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San Francisco Playhouse announces 5-Year Commission Program

San Francisco Playhouse (Artistic Director Bill English; Producing Director Susi Damilano) expanded its commitment to developing new plays and nurturing the voices of active playwrights with the launch of a 5-Year Commission Program dedicated to the creation of 20 new plays over the next 5 years. This will elevate the Playhouse’s acclaimed New Play Program, …

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Non-Player Character | A Note from the Artistic Director

We are fascinated and troubled by the collision between our human consciousness and technology. And in plays like First Person Shooter, Wirehead, and The Nether, San Francisco Playhouse has explored this connection. How do social media and role-playing video games change the way we interact? In First Person Shooter, Aaron Loeb explored the moral responsibility …

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‘Born Yesterday’ – A Note from the Artistic Director

Why Born Yesterday? Why now? Why this American classic by the great Garson Kanin which served as a vehicle to birth the stardom of Judy Holliday? First produced in 1946, it was subsequently turned into an Academy Award-winning film, winning a total of 5 Oscars—including one for Ms. Holliday. We think of it in retrospect …

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From the Empathy Gym | Empathy Hurts.

I’ve spoken a lot about empathy. And about how our theatre is an empathy gym. Where we come to improve our powers of compassion. But what does that actually involve? We all know what a work out at our physical gym requires. If we really want to get in shape, it is going to hurt. …

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‘A Christmas Story’ – A Note from the Artistic Director

Based on Jean Shepherd’s radio broadcasts and collections of anecdotes, the 1983 Bob Clark film has earned an iconic place in the pantheon of Holiday classics, along with Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. A Christmas Story’s depiction of the dreams of a nine-year-old boy for his ideal Christmas …

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San Francisco Playhouse Nominated for 7 Theater Bay Area Awards!

Theater Bay Area announced nominees for its 2017 TBA Awards Celebration, and San Francisco Playhouse productions were nominated for 7 awards. The awards will be presented on Monday, October 30th, 2017 at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Congratulations to all of the nominees! The nominees are listed below: “Outstanding Properties Design”: Jacquelyn​ ​Scott​ for Seared  …

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At SF Playhouse, A Patron Services Manager Excited About Building Relationships

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Barbecue | A Note from the Artistic Director

As I began looking for the play to open our 15th Season, I hoped to find a work that would speak profoundly to the moment in which our civilization finds itself. I hoped to find a fresh voice who has their ear tuned to the pulse of our times, complicated as they are with divisions, …

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Zenith World Premiere

Zenith | A Note from the Artistic Director

When someone does something inexplicably terrible, those around them—and all of us by extension through the media—are stunned. “She was so nice!” we say. “He coached little league.” “She jump-started my car.” The heart of darkness often hides behind a placid face, so carefully disguised, that we have no inkling of the turmoil seething within. …

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From the Empathy Gym | Doctor, My Eyes

I spoke a few weeks ago at the national convention of the ATCA, the American Theatre Critics’ Association. I had a hard time coming up with what I would say. There is a curious tension between theatre producers and critics. We eye each other a little warily. Producers are acutely aware that critics have the …

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La Cage aux Folles | A Note from the Artistic Director

Although there have been three wildly successful revivals since, this American musical theatre masterpiece was originally produced in 1983. But like She Loves Me, the other musical to hit our stage this season, it has a long lineage. Originally a French play by Jean Poiret, La Cage was adapted into the great French-Italian film of …

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You Mean to Do Me Harm | A Note from the Artistic Director

We feel deeply honored to have commissioned and now to present the World Premiere of You Mean to Do Me Harm by Christopher Chen. A San Francisco native and one of our nation’s most promising young playwrights, Chris just won the Obie Award for Playwriting for his play Caught. San Francisco Playhouse has also been lucky …

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From the Empathy Gym | The Art of Not Knowing

The Art of Not Knowing We generally associate accomplishment in any field with “knowing.” Finding, discovering, establishing. Who would ever think that not knowing could align with anything more glorious than ignorance? We live in an age of information where certainty is celebrated, where each faction knows that it is right. To not know can …

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‘The Roommate’ | A Note from the Artistic Director

I’ve been an avid fan of Jen Silverman for a few years. Favorite titles include The Moors, Blink, Crane Story, Phoebe in Winter, and I think all of us at San Francisco Playhouse are thrilled at the opportunity to produce one of her plays! She has a truly unique voice, one of our gifted young playwright/prophets who …

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From the Empathy Gym | The Mission

The Mission: To tell stories that uplift our spirits, deepen self-awareness, and nurture compassionate community. It’s been a while since I looked closely at our mission, our promise to our community, and I was glad to feel that this simple phrase still inspires me, that the three-legged stool of our mission still has the capacity to …

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‘Noises Off’ | A Note from the Artistic Director

Misery Loves Comedy If ever there was a time we need a good laugh, it’s now! With tensions growing in our country, with the constant drama in Washington, and with all our struggles to stay focused on our work and our lives, comedy may be an answer. Maybe it’s the only answer. As Woody Allen …

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From the Empathy Gym | Stories of Hope

These mornings it seems grief rolls in like the fog, and I find myself in meditation on the floor in a pile of tears. Something seems to have been irrevocably lost. The vision I always held of a people united by dreams, hopes, and yearnings has been ripped asunder. We cannot speak to our other …

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San Francisco Playhouse nominated for 43 Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards

The San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle announced nominees for its 41st annual Excellence in Theatre Awards, and San Francisco Playhouse productions were tabbed for 43 awards. The awards will be presented on Monday, March 27, 2017 at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco. Congratulations to all of the nominees! Play Nominaton Nominee Colossal Choreography …

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From The Empathy Gym | To Save Us or Destroy Us

Three boys shared a bedroom in their family’s duplex. There wasn’t much room for anything but the three beds, arranged against three walls with a chest of drawers thrown in somehow on the fourth wall between the door to the hallway and the closet door. Two windows. The boys were 11, eight, and six, with …

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The Christians by Lucas Hnath

‘The Christians’ | A Note from the Artistic Director

We are amazed by the power religious belief exerts in our world. So much good—and so much bad—has been done in the name of religion; and at home and abroad, we are dumbfounded by the power of fundamentalism to wreak havoc on our social and political institutions. What is belief? Why is it such a …

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The Cast of ‘She Loves Me’ Sings at Tree Lighting

On the day after Thanksgiving, the cast of She Loves Me kicked off Macy’s 27th Annual Great Tree Lighting in Union Square. The cast sang three holiday songs, including “Twelve Days to Christmas.” Watch the video below.

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From The Empathy Gym | Whose Story Is It?

It occurred to me last month while writing “The First Story,” that I was just grazing the tip of the iceberg of the subject of “storytelling.” Certainly, in the theatre it is our life’s blood and the very reason for our existence. As an Artistic Director, it defines my purpose, to decide which stories to …

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She Loves Me | A Note from the Artistic Director

A country divided, fractured into a half dozen splinter groups. Ungovernable. Where every faction hates every other faction, all lacking the capacity to empathize with the struggles of others. Lacking the ability to even talk to each other, these alienated splinters claw for power, marginalizing minority groups, all driven by the panicky fear that they …

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From The Empathy Gym | The First Story

November 2016 Newsletter A group of ancient humans sit huddled around the fire, hunkered down in a shallow cave so the rain doesn’t put the fire out, the sound of distant wolves and other creatures of the night echoing off the cliffs around them. They are eating fresh kill, an elk-like animal that was brought in …

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From the Empathy Gym | Who Am I This Time?

October 2016 Newsletter   In the great Kurt Vonnegut short story, “Who Am I This Time?”, Harry Nash, the awkward hardware store clerk, but also the best actor in town, struggles to relate when off-stage. His mutual crush with Helene Shaw goes nowhere until she discovers that Harry can be romantic, but only if he is …

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Seared | A Note from the Artistic Director

What a spectacular privilege to open our fourteenth season with a World Premiere commission from Theresa Rebeck. The saga that created this opportunity goes back six years. Always huge fans of her work, we first dipped our feet into her pool with “The Scene.” And when Maurice Kanbar, one of SF’s great philanthropists chose to …

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Constructing the Set of Seared | Timelapse

It took four full days to assemble the set of Seared on our stage. The crew worked tirelessly, starting as soon as the final curtain fell on City of Angels on Saturday night, all the way through the following Wednesday. When they were done, our theater had been transformed into a working kitchen! Watch this painstaking process …

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From the Empathy Gym | Community and Theatre

September 2016 Newsletter   I was recently at a preview of our current Sandbox Show, “All of What You Love and None of What You Hate.” As the patrons were leaving, I asked a couple about what they thought of the show. They both sighed and admitted that the play had struck a little close to …

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all of what you love and none of what you hate: A Note from the Artistic Director

In the endless parade of new scripts that cross our desks, 400 to 500 per year, it is tough for one to really stand out. A couple years ago, Jordan Puckett, our associate artistic director and the producer of our Sandbox program, sent me a script by Phillip Howze. I was immediately struck by the …

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‘City of Angels’ Cast Performs the National Anthem

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From the Empathy Gym | Ego and Humility

August 2016 Newsletter   When San Francisco Playhouse moved from 533 Sutter to 450 Post, it was a Herculean undertaking, fraught with grave risks on all sides.  I feared that though we had challenges with our Sutter Street landlord, we might have even more difficulties with our new landlord, the Elks. I feared that the Department …

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From The Empathy Gym | Vulnerability

July 2016 Newsletter   In the military sense, vulnerability means that your position is open to attack, that there is a gap in your defenses, a chink in your armor, an Achilles’ heel. Military strategists work ceaselessly to eradicate any weaknesses in their country’s defenses through which an enemy could penetrate. In the social sense, …

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City of Angels: A Note from the Artistic Director

A Tony-winning Broadway hit, a brilliant jazz score by Cy Coleman, and a book by M*A*S*H*-writer genius Larry Gelbart, City of Angels has unfathomably not been revived on Broadway in 25 years. Why do it now? First off, it is a theatrical tour de force, pitting the two worlds of black and white film noir …

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The Rules: A Note from the Artistic Director

When we look back at the last century, since women achieved the right to the vote in 1920, we believe that huge progress has been made. In the 1960s, so much attention was placed on Women’s Liberation. Legislation has been enacted in decades since that protects women from discrimination and guarantees their rights to property …

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From the Empathy Gym | Never Good Enough

June 2016 Newsletter   My father, William English, senior to my junior, had high hopes for me – his namesake. In his imagination, I would simultaneously play first base for the Cubs and sit first chair oboe in the Chicago Symphony. He was a dedicated father, and I was an ambitious kid who wanted more than …

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Red Velvet

Red Velvet: A Note from the Artistic Director

When Susi and I saw Red Velvet at the Tricycle Theatre in London, we knew immediately that we would want to bring it to San Francisco audiences. Sadly, we had known nothing about Ira Aldridge, so at the simplest level this play is a wonderful history lesson about this very important actor, a pioneer, who …

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From the Empathy Gym | The Art of Risk

May, 2016 Newsletter When I was thirteen, under the influence of Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster, I was determined to become a swash-buckling movie daredevil.  Our Junior High School had recently built a one-story temporary structure that intruded into what was formerly playground space.  My fellow seventh-grade classmates, always at war against teen boredom, quickly …

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From the Empathy Gym | The Tortured Artist

April, 2016 Newsletter During eleven days in March 2016, San Francisco Playhouse opened three shows on two different coasts.  “Ideation” in New York, “Colossal” on our Main Stage, and “On Clover Road” in the Sandbox. Whew!  So tired!  But recovering today, I found myself remembering a time when such an achievement would have been unthinkable …

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Colossal

Colossal: A Note from the Artistic Director

I started college at Arizona State with two contradictory ambitions – to play varsity baseball and to act in theatre productions. And for most of my freshman year, I was able to balance the sports and arts commitments pretty well. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was offered an opportunity to redshirt on …

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From the Empathy Gym | Lessons from Strips of Paper

March, 2016 Newsletter I was an alienated teenager. I spent a vast amount of time alone, face down on my bed, terror-stricken at the prospect of having to interact with other people. But even back then, my strong interest in storytelling manifested itself. Before I had acted in three or four plays, before I had …

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From the Empathy Gym | Transformers

February, 2016 Newsletter Several years ago, while in the lobby after performances of “Abigail’s Party,” I would find Allison White, who played Angela, chatting with audience members, and I would frequently hear them ask her, “How did you enjoy the show?” We would both laugh, and then one of us would point out that Allison …

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The Nether

‘The Nether’ – A Note from the Artistic Director

In the early 21st Century, we already think of experience as being offline or online, and we are spending exponentially more of our time in digital realities. For many, surfing Facebook or Twitter, our heads buried in our computers and smartphones, our world is shrinking down to our 5-inch screen. The Oculus Rift is the …

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From the Empathy Gym | A Dangerous Place

January, 2016 Newsletter I attended my very first live theater performance at the age of 7. I saw Tad Lincoln in the White House as part of an amazing theatre program sponsored by the Evanston, Illinois school district that produced plays specifically aimed at school-age audiences. At the time, I was mostly interested in baseball, …

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From the Empathy Gym | Mirror, Mirror

When I prepare to design a new set or craft a production concept, I often try to picture our stage as a giant 32’ x 16’ mirror in which we see ourselves reflected back. In this imaginary piece of glass, every aspect of theatre – playwriting, scenic design, acting, the costumes and lights, the props …

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From the Empathy Gym | The Temporary Forever

  The Temporary Forever Before I became an artistic director, before I had a scene-shop and drafting associates and amazing carpenters to actualize my artistic vision – I put on one-off productions in whatever available temporary black-box stage I could rent. I wore all the theatre hats; producer, director, actor, stage manager. Designing them as …

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From the Empathy Gym | Any Given Sunday

These days, on any given Sunday, it seems that in my neighborhood, there are more people at Starbucks communing with their laptops and smartphones than attending services at traditional houses of worship. Our opportunities to feel connected to something greater than ourselves or to each other have dwindled. Many say that the theatre is dying …

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The Empathy Gym

From the Empathy Gym | The Antipathy Gym

Most of you have heard me talk about the Empathy Gym – how San Francisco Playhouse has built a safe space where our community can practice its powers of compassion and empathy. But why do we need such a space? What makes empathy difficult to practice? Is empathy something that comes naturally? Or do we …

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Happy August

Happy August! Company is in full swing, and we all get a little rest from producing during its long run. I wanted to share some thoughts with you that arose from my first newsletter and many of your responses and questions. The quality that most distinguishes humans is our capacity for change. It is built …

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Stephen Adly Guirgis wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Stephen Adly Guirgis, who has had many plays produced at San Francisco Playhouse, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for drama for his play “Between Riverside and Crazy.” The Pulitzer committee praised it as “a nuanced, beautifully written play about a retired police officer faced with eviction that uses dark comedy to confront questions of life …

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‘Grounded’ goes to New York City

“Grounded” written by George Brant is making its Off-Broadway debut this week at the Public Theater in New York City. The play stars film actor Anne Hathaway, famous for “Les Misérables,” and is directed by Julie Taymor, well-known for receiving a Tony for “The Lion King.” “Grounded” was produced in the San Francisco Playhouse Sandbox …

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The Empathy Gym

The Empathy Gym

Our theatre is an empathy gym where we come to practice our powers of compassion. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Ghandi: These are the Olympic athletes of empathy. But the rest of us need to go to the gym. It’s tough to be compassionate in everyday life. We get cut off in traffic, …

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