Climate change - Page 3

How does a small, intrepid theater company survive — and thrive — in turbulent economic times? Look to SoMa's Climate Theater
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Soon afterward she discovered, while putting up flyers for the show, that the accident had helped them in the all-mighty word-of-mouth department. "'Is that the show where somebody got stabbed?' they asked. I said, 'Yeah, you should see it.' They went, 'Yeaaah!'<0x2009>"

Bullock — while still a practicing artist and one of the biggest events presenters around, associated with everything from the Sea of Dreams NYE parties to the SF Burning Man events, Decompression, and Flambé Lounge — notes wryly that these days he's not always recognized when he strays from Anon to the other side of the building. In truth, his and Crosby's involvement with the theater side of Climate is limited. "I'm still a board member, and I'm still sub-landlord of this space," he says. "But I don't have much to say about the programming."

The theater itself is the Climate's second incarnation — after a progressively overtaxed Bullock and Crosby finally decided to hang up their theater hats and vacate the storefront space at 252 Ninth St. in the late '90s — and it's the handiwork of magician, actor, showman, and impresario Paul Nathan of Dark Kabaret — a lavishly popular event that has served in part, like Bullock and Crosby's famous Glashaus parties, as a fundraiser for the theater.

Nathan happened to be driving by, contemputf8g a sojourn in Europe in the wake of the dot-com bust, when he saw the for-rent sign at Ninth and Folsom. He knew the space well from Glashaus party days and the old Billboard Café, which derived its name from the sheets with painted messages that regularly hung from the roof. "I thought, you know, small theater is a dumb idea," he says. "But with a billboard there, we might be able to make a go of it." He got a good deal on the rent from Bullock, built a stage in the empty space, and took on the Climate name again with Bullock's hearty approval.

"We started with Devil in the Deck and Titillation Theater," Nathan recalls. The evolving smart and sexy sketches of Titillation Theater (favorite program title: Let's Pretend I'm Not Your Mother) produced another long-running success for the Climate. "We got huge crowds, but we were also advertising in the Chronicle, so our advertising budget was just insane," he adds. "We were breaking even, or making a little bit of money each week. But we really didn't know what we were doing. There was no grant money." Eventually, Nathan says, they couldn't afford to continue: "You do the numbers — it just can't happen."

A NEW CLIMATE

Journey across the gulf of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, during which the theater briefly disappeared along with many other art spaces and artists, to the moment when Heidt joined the Climate in 2007. In step with the intrepid optimism she detects in her SoMa environs, she has cheerfully and tirelessly overseen a remarkable resurgence of activity at the 49-seat black-box theater. With its all-volunteer staff, the venue hit a high point in February, presenting in that one month 16 downright disparate shows, including the current West Coast premiere of Skin, a smart, bold, adults-only rumination on lust and fidelity by the sharp and whimsical young Atlanta playwright Steve Yockey, a coproduction with Encore Theater, which coproduced Yockey's Octopus at the Magic last year.

As offbeat as any play by Yockey promises to be, it remains one of the more straight-ahead components in an unusually varied theatrical lineup.

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