Theater arts

S.F. Neo-Futurists transfer into 447 Minna amid altering downtown theater panorama

S.F. Neo-Futurists transfer into 447 Minna amid altering downtown theater panorama
The San Francisco Neo-Futurists carry out “The Infinite Wrench” at 447 Minna in San Francisco’s South of Market district. Photograph: Michaela Vatcheva / Particular to The Chronicle

When the San Francisco Neo-Futurists carried out their first present of 2023, they had been in a wonderful new black field theater with three wall-mounted PTZ cameras, simply in case they wished to live-stream from a number of angles, and touchscreens that management lights and different results. The house has a vibrant, inviting foyer with snazzy uncovered brick partitions and a inexperienced room that may morph right into a convention room, full with ceiling microphones for ease of Zoom conferences.

By 10:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13, “The Infinite Wrench,” the Neos’ ongoing medley of very brief performs, had left its mark on 447 Minna St. The stage’s flooring was scattered with spaghetti noodles, smashed greens and ice, mushy bananas that had been squeezed between the toes of mononymous performer Jeb, and fairly probably some driblets of uncooked egg.

An viewers member drinks a glass of pizza-flavored water in the course of the San Francisco Neo-Futurists’ efficiency of “The Infinite Wrench.” Photograph: Michaela Vatcheva / Particular to The Chronicle

The distinction between fancy digs and scrappy artwork epitomizes what 447 Minna, which is owned by the nonprofit Neighborhood Arts Stabilization Belief, is all about.

CAST, which acquired the South of Market constructing by donation from Brookfield Properties in 2018, works to get artists and humanities firms into long-term inexpensive actual property. One in all its properties, CounterPulse, at 80 Turk St., is rent-to-own. One other is the Baggage Retailer Gallery, whose leaders determined to not buy their property at 1007 Market St., however the house is deed-restricted for the humanities in perpetuity.

Viewers members exterior of 447 Minna in San Francisco. Photograph: Michaela Vatcheva / Particular to The Chronicle

At 447 Minna, tenants Push Dance Firm, Girls’s Audio Mission and the Neos aren’t all for proudly owning, so now CAST has taken on a brand new function of extra lively property supervisor, reserving short- and long-term leases at below-market charges. The whole first flooring, which incorporates the black field theater, can be utilized for as little as $90 per hour. The Neos estimate that they’ll save $7,000 out of a $140,000 annual price range in comparison with what they paid at their final dwelling, PianoFight.

“It sounded too good to be true,” Neos Co-Inventive Director Willie Caldwell mentioned of first studying concerning the house, from Richard Ciccarone of the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Profit District, “so we thought we’d test it out. And right here we’re.”

The San Francisco Neo-Futurists carry out “The Infinite Wrench.” Photograph: Michaela Vatcheva / Particular to The Chronicle

On their very own, the Neos in all probability couldn’t get the money, the savvy or just the time to search out such a good actual property state of affairs. “CAST can fill in that clean by way of tips on how to navigate the true property panorama and terminology,” mentioned CAST Director of Occasions and Applications Matthew McTire. Then artists can give attention to making artwork.

The renovated property at 447 Minna St., which has been open for one-off occasions and workplace house (together with for CAST itself) since March, joins a quickly altering downtown panorama for the performing arts. In December, Exit Theatre shut its Eddy Road doorways after 40 years on the Tenderloin hall. The identical month, PianoFight Inventive Director Rob Prepared instructed The Chronicle that attendance at his theater is down 65% and that he’s having a tough time discovering sufficient acts to maintain the three-stage property open. These developments may make an onlooker wonder if one other small venue close by is what town wants.

“We nonetheless proceed to listen to that artists want house — and inexpensive house,” mentioned CAST Director of Advertising and Communications Catherine Nguyen. “Whether or not or not that’s long-term tenancy could also be altering,” she conceded.

A view of the inexperienced house between Natoma and Minna from atop the George Residences. CAST’s house is on the decrease proper. Photograph: Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle 2022

Shelley Trott, who’s a supporter of CAST each as its board president and thru the Kenneth Rainin Basis, the place she’s chief program officer, identified {that a} venue’s want and significance can transcend short-term market tendencies.

“We’ve seen cycles,” she mentioned, referring to her personal time as a working artist in the course of the dot-com bubble. “Clearly, it is a completely different type of cycle. Everyone’s questioning their enterprise fashions.”

Nonetheless, she added, “I don’t assume that we’re ever going to be able the place house turns into out of date.”

CAST was created in 2013 partially to study from what arts philanthropy missed throughout earlier financial downturns. One lesson: Hire subsidies aren’t sufficient.

“In case you’re simply giving arts organizations extra cash to pay their increased rents, you’re not fixing the issue. It doesn’t cut back the specter of displacement; it simply delays it,” Trott mentioned.

Actual property alternatives don’t usually final lengthy, she added. If CAST doesn’t take a property off the speculative market and completely deed-restrict it for the humanities in the course of the sizzling second when it’s out there, then town may by no means once more have the possibility to make it a cultural asset.

Willie Caldwell, Co-Inventive Director of the San Francisco Neo-Futurists (proper), and Sam Bertken carry out in “The Infinite Wrench.” Photograph: Michaela Vatcheva / Particular to The Chronicle

The cultural asset of 447 Minna was already on vibrant show on the Neos’ opening evening. Of their “menu” of brief performs they poked enjoyable at ChatGPT, Haruki Murakami’s novels, Grindr encounters and panicked San Francisco climate broadcasts concerning the metropolis’s historic rainfall. They bared their real-life anxieties about promoting out to the person or spending an excessive amount of time stewing over previous and future decisions. They devised feats of extraordinary invention, together with making performer Sam Bertken right into a mop. In a single scene, they held a ritual for the house with the formality and swagger one may use to christen a sea vessel.

Exterior, the once-desolate Minna Road regarded like a part of a bustling neighborhood — a tidy park proper subsequent door, dive bar the Tempest conveniently inviting theatergoers for a post-game, all with a brand new venue because the anchor.

“The Infinite Wrench”: Written and directed by the San Francisco Neo-Futurists. Ongoing. 75 minutes. $13-$19. 447 Minna St., S.F.

  • Lily Janiak

    Lily Janiak is The San Francisco Chronicle’s theater critic. E mail: [email protected] Twitter: @LilyJaniak

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