From the surface trying in, San Francisco seems headed towards a civic breakdown. Tales of smash-and-grabs dominate headlines, and stories of filthy streets paint a crappy—if maybe distorted—image of the town. In the meantime, doom crazy visions of financial catastrophe conveyed by the media (sorry!) solely perpetuate this narrative.
However the metropolis’s proverbial city decline is not only the fixation of right-wing media and San Francisco’s haters. Artists are getting in on the dialogue, too. Collapses of the psychological, civic and financial type are all the themes of San Francisco Mime Troupe’s aptly titled Breakdown, a brand new musical satire that the 64-year-old theater collective premieres in Berkeley on Saturday. The manufacturing will then be carried out in parks across the Bay Space, together with San Francisco, by means of the start of September.
The present facilities on three feminine characters: Yume, a homeless girl affected by schizophrenia on the streets of San Francisco; Saidia, her social employee who’s caught between advocating for her purchasers and bureaucratic tangles of purple tape; and Marcia Stone, a Fox Information commentator despatched to the Tenderloin to painting the Metropolis by the Bay in a dire scenario.
Written with a concentrate on addressing psychological sickness, the present primarily takes the attitude of Yume as an unhoused girl wrestling not solely with the psychological and real-world challenges of her dwelling scenario, but additionally the broader societal points surrounding San Francisco’s supposed unraveling. Michael Gene Sullivan, SF Mime Troupe’s resident playwright, and Marie Cartier, a collective member and social employee, co-wrote the present. (Opposite to its identify, the Mime Troupe really sings and speaks out its exhibits in an exaggerated fashion to level out the absurdities of each day life and infrequently politics.)
“This sense that everybody is kind of getting ready to a breakdown proper now felt actually related,” Cartier stated.
“The explanation we referred to as it ‘Breakdown’ was a single character can have a breakdown, a system can have a breakdown, a tradition can have a breakdown,” Sullivan stated. “San Francisco is type of on the sting to a sure extent,”
He believes that SF’s doom loop isn’t merely a symptom of companies exiting Downtown, however a a lot deeper existential disaster going through the town. Whereas different metropolises like Los Angeles could produce movies for leisure or focus on finance or commerce, Sullivan sees a metropolis that lacks a civic level and tries too arduous to use a suburban mindset to dealing with big-city points.
“San Francisco would not have an id anymore. […] For my part, it has develop into the suburb of Silicon Valley,” Sullivan stated. “So what will we make? What will we do? Why are we right here? Till we reinvest within the factor that we will do, which is tradition, we do not have a function, and we’re only a jumped-up suburb.”
He additionally thinks that the town has kowtowed to the whims of company pursuits and tech moguls.
“Proper now, america typically and San Francisco specifically has very a lot outlined itself by the way it treats the very best off, how we deal with those that least want us to deal with them and to ensure to maintain Elon Musk completely happy,” Sullivan continued, “and that may be a horrible option to outline your self.”
However SF Mime Troupe isn’t merely driving a wave of anti-SF rhetoric—neither is it glossing over the town’s issues. Whereas San Francisco’s bleaker components are underlined within the present, the collective, which presents theater from a vocal and decidedly working-class perspective, goals to reframe the prevailing doom loop narrative of San Francisco.
How? Firstly, by humanizing tales like Yume’s and Saidia’s, placing a face on beleaguered neighborhoods just like the Tenderloin and calling out partisan media makes an attempt that maintain up San Francisco for instance of liberal insurance policies gone terribly incorrect.
“This assault on progressivism is a part of a tradition conflict,” Sullivan stated. “We have now to have the ability to not imagine the hype about our personal metropolis.”
“Folks struggling is being twisted to suit a selected agenda, which is accountable left-leaning insurance policies,” stated Cartier, who pulled from her experiences working as a social employee to co-write the musical. “It felt actually vital to choose aside that narrative on this present, however then additionally simply have a extra grounded take a look at what social work is, what it really appears to be like like.”
Moderately than depicting a heroic social employee who will do something to avoid wasting her purchasers or an apathetic cog in metropolis corridor’s wheels, Cartier opted for realism in co-writing the character of Saidia.
“She retains it actual on a stage that may make different folks uncomfortable as a result of she’s seen a number of issues, and he or she understands among the grimmer realities of the world, and he or she faces them each day,” Cartier stated. “She is aware of what is going on on, whereas lots of people round her are discovering methods to disregard [the realities]. […] And he or she’s drained.”
However the Mime Troupe doesn’t desires to go away audiences feeling worn down and weary by San Francisco’s state of affairs. Moderately, Cartier hopes audiences really feel catharsis, and Sullivan desires San Franciscans to take arduous look within the mirror and ask themselves how they wish to outline San Francisco for the long run and make a change within the metropolis somewhat than simply complain about it.
“I really feel it is vital that the revolution should not finish onstage as a result of it leaves nothing for the viewers to do,” Sullivan stated.
🗓 July 1-Sept. 4
📍 Numerous areas
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