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On The Town With Terry

February 21, 2007

The Wall Street Journal has given its theatre critic, Terry Teachout, a more-or-less unique mandate: to cover theatre all over the country, not just in New York. Given that the W.S.J. is a national paper, this makes a lot of sense. But few if any other U.S. publications with the same reach even attempt to do this.

Terry has spent the last few years zig-zagging around covering shows from Boston to Portland. But yesterday represented his first ever experience of San Francisco theatre.

I met him and a friend of his, Heather (a local pianist and arts blogger), for dinner at Colibri, an excellent upscale Spanish restaurant, and then the three of us headed across the street to see Rene Augesen in Hedda Gabler at A.C.T.

A.C.T. is probably the most obvious first stop for anyone who hasn't seen a show in San Francisco: It's our "flagship" theater company after all. It has the biggest budgets, highest profile, and the Geary theatre is one of the loveliest spaces around. But the company is hardly representative of the scene out here. Looking back at last night, I think if someone said to me: "I've never been to San Francisco before. I'm in town for one evening. What should I go and see?" I think I'd send them across the Bay to Berkeley Rep sooner than I'd recommend A.C.T. And depending on their age/taste, I might rather even suggest checking out The Magic or Campo Santo, the resident theatre ensemble at Intersection for the Arts. I think these two companies capture the essence of the San Francisco theatre scene more accurately than either A.C.T. or Berkeley Rep.
Luckily, Terry seems to have fallen in love with this city and says he'll come back again soon, maybe in August or September. I'm hoping he'll have time to experience a broader range of our tremendously vibrant performing arts environment next time around.

In the meantime, it'll be interesting to read what he writes about Hedda in his column next Friday. (He'll be covering several California shows including Kate Whoriskey's production of Calderon de la Barca's Life is a Dream at South Coast Repertory in the same column). I wonder if the piece that I plan to write about last night's production for next week's issue of SF Weekly will tally with his?

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