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New Beginning for Climate Theater

June 11, 2010

jess.jpegYou can never predict what will happen to a small theatre in San Francisco. When I last wrote about The Climate Theater at any length, I predicted that the offbeat SOMA performance space would revitalize the neighborhood. Artistic director Jessica Heidt's (pictured) programming has been innovative. She's drawn in big, diverse crowds. The theater has become a great launching pad for all manner of underground performance artists and groups from the clown John Gilkey to the cross-dressing physical theatre artist Monique Jenkinson.

It's been about 15 months since my article about the theatre came out in SF Weekly. And the area around 9th Street and Folsom where the organization is based is every bit as dilapidated as it was back then. Restaurants have closed or are only open sporadically. The intersection is still a honeypot for the homeless, drug-addled and deranged. And now The Climate Theater itself is shutting up shop and moving on.

I reached Heidt by phone earlier today. Following the theatre's farewell performance on Monday night, she was clearing up and packing up with a crew of helpers. Heidt sounded fairly cheerful despite the move.

The Climate Theatre is moving, according to Heidt, because renovations were required on the space which were prohibitively expensive to undertake. She described the decision to give up the lease as "amicable". The owner is turning the space into offices, according to Heidt.

The company is now moving to the Jewish Theatre's space at 470 Florida Street in the Mission/Potrero Hill neighborhood for a few months. Heidt intends to continue her resident artists program as well as program performances of such ongoing Climate favorites as the Clown Cabaret and the Dating Game. There will be a rerun of Jenkinson's "Luxury Items" performance piece and a new work by Joshua Walters among other events.

"Moving to the Jewish Theatre is a great opportunity for us to try out larger-scale work, which is what we want to do in the future," said Heidt. "Being based at the Jewish Theatre buys us some time so we can see what it's like to produce at a higher level without necessarily having to buy the whole cow."

I feel a bit sad about the company moving from SOMA to be honest. During the time it was there, it helped a barren corner of the city to flourish. Still, the space was a deathtrap and Heidt was constantly having to deal with the police and the drunks. Hopefully spending some time on Florida Street will provide some much needed respite and a chance to develop a longer-term artistic vision.

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