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Subscriber Newsletter – August 2019

Subscriber Newsletter – August 2019

Whew! Our 18-19 Season has fully opened. And what a season it has been. There is always a collective sigh of relief that rises from everyone down at 450 Post when the final opening night opens and all six of our Mainstage shows and our three Sandbox premieres are open. I’m not sure whether it was by luck or design but in our very first season we did a long summer run of The Fantasticks and that set the pattern for every season that would follow.

So we are all enjoying a bit of a breather from producing. Dance Nation, our first mainstage show, and The Daughters, the first of our Sandboxes, won’t start rehearsing till after Labor Day. And although there are preparations underway, we do have a moment in August to recharge and contemplate the great season we just completed.

Opening the season, You Mean to Do Me Harm was our second show to move up from Sandbox to Mainstage. With a spectacular set from Angrette McCloskey, it gave us a window into how racist micro-aggressions make communications difficult for interracial couples.

Nina Ball supplied another great set for Mary Poppins, which became our highest grossing musical ever.

And King of the Yees directly followed Mary Poppins by becoming the most successful non-musical. Quite the one-two punch!!! Yoga Play brought us a farce for the 21st Century.

Significant Other turned the “gay best friend” stereotype on its ear to hilarious effect and Cabaret has brought audiences to their feet with its brilliant performances and chilling relevance.

Graveyard Shift, our first Sandbox, will be moving this coming season to the mainstage at the prestigious Goodman Theatre in Chicago, A White Girl’s Guide to International Terrorism seemed ripped out of the headlines as ISIS brides were trying to repatriate just as it opened and The Fit played to full houses and great reviews.

Our production of Yoga Play is going to be moving down to Laguna Beach this fall.  4/5ths of the cast—including Susi in the leading role—will be going, all the designers will be ours, and I’ll be directing, as we dip our toe into the world of co-producing with other theatres. So if you are in Southern California this Fall, come down and see it again. The artistic director from Laguna came up to see Yoga Play and immediately offered to transfer it south.

We had a really wonderful reminder of the glories of live theatre the other day when three of the cast of Cabaret were ill or suffering from sprains, and because we stair-step our understudies up from smaller roles to bigger, we had what feels like a Guinness book of world records five understudies in place for the performance on Saturday, July 20. Wow. What a day, scrounging costumes and wigs that would fit, setting up the microphones, reviewing blocking and choreography. And true to the spirit of “the show must go on,” everyone performed the show without a hitch to standing O’s and amazement from the crowd. Nothing reassures us about the power of the human spirit like the way a cast and crew will rally to make the show happen.

Set designs for Dance Nation and Groundhog Day, our first two shows of the 2019/20 Season, are well underway at our Hayward shop and we had our first dance call for Follies, which doesn’t open for almost a year. One of the big challenges of Follies is that we need six women in their sixties and seventies who are still triple-threats!  SO if you know anyone out there of this vintage and still has their tap shoes, be sure to let me know. As it turns out, there has never been a professional production of Follies in San Francisco, so, amazingly, ours will be a local premiere!! AND Karen Ziemba, a Tony-winner musical theatre star will be playing Sally!

Susi and I are off to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in a couple weeks to see Cambodian Rock Band by our hometown fav, Lauren Yee, and Mother Road by Octavio Solis. We have commissioned Octavio to write the sequel to Mother Road. So we definitely have to see what is up with that.

Getting excited about our 17th 19-20 Season as we start planning for 20-21 (Yikes!) so if you have any suggestions, feel free to throw them my way. Enjoy the rest of your summers and we’ll see you all in the fall.

Empathetically yours,


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Bill English
Bill English is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of San Francisco Playhouse, and in fifteen years with Susi Damilano, has guided its growth from a bare-bones storefront to the second-largest theater in San Francisco.

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