Asae and I have completed the first performance leg of our journey as Salt and Sage Productions: a whirlwind experience of performing in different places, crashing in different sleeping spaces, loading our equipment in and out, taking care of logistics, spending a lot of time on the road, and making artistic and personal discoveries. The irony of "The Exit Theatre" being a sort of jumping-off point of our journey, strikes me as I take a few moments to breathe in all that has happened, and all that is still to come. We're spending the next month or so in different states, both creating some art with other groups before reconvening again in early November for our Christmas play. And in a sense, we have made a bit of a temporary exit. We have laid Cinnamon and Cigarettes to rest (again, if still temporarily); we are taking some breathing room from our home theatre space, and we are doing a bit of creating apart from each other. But one of the beauties of theatre is that from exits always come entrances. The end is never the end, even when it is. The next play is always right around the corner. So I'm taking a moment, now, to be grateful for the exits and the entrances, the support I consistently receive from all sides, the connections I've made and continue to make, the dear friends and fellow artists who help me become a better artist and human being, and the opportunity to do what I love on a daily basis.
Saturday, we wrapped up our run of Cinnamon and Cigarettes at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. We, theatre artists, often remark on how an audience shapes a show, however, place does as well. The other week I mentioned the greatness of Exit Studio where we were performing. Really, it was the perfect venue for Cinnamon and Cigarettes - intimate with great sight lines and killer acoustics. Today, I want to talk about the Exit Theater in context, the neighborhood that surrounds it which no doubt interacted with the work, not only for us, but for out audiences as they made there way to and from the theater. The Exit, which hosts the Fringe Festival, is located at 156 Eddy Street in the Tenderloin neighborhood. The headline of a 1959 Time Magazine article on an acclaimed jazz club (the Black Hawk) captures the Tenderloin’s reputation with the alliterative and pejorative headline “Success in a Sewer.” A half century later, one can still imagine a national magazine referring the Tenderloin (or at least parts of it) with the same sensational headline. Piss and pot were the dominant fragrances along the two blocks of Eddy Street that we traveled back and forth as we loaded our set in and out for each show. Afraid of becoming stranded in a Bay Area traffic jam and missing a performance, we would often arrive two hours early and go sit in coffee shop on the corner of Eddy and Cyril Magnin. This was not the kind of coffee shop patrons usually hang out in, rather, it was one of those purely functional spots where folks come to get a cheap cup of coffee, an aspirin (they came attached, gratis, to the cup sleeves) and a donut before heading into work or diving down into the Metro Powell Downtown Station. Once as we were sipping our coffee and remarking on the city, another customer, (a middle-aged woman with purple highlights in her jet black hair), sensing that we were not from around here, gave us the lay of the land saying that down the street was all “junkies, pimps, and whores” while around the corner was “all corporate and boring.” She identified herself as a gallery owner and advised us that the area near Valencia street was the happening area in the city. Having walked past a man bitching out a dealer over what his $20 got him and looking out at the Gap and Forever 21 across the street, it was easy to agree with her assessment. When you turn the corner from the coffee shop at a sharp diagonal, you are whisked away from the harsh urban landscape of Eddy and greeted by throngs of tourists and giant retail stores (Uniqlo, Sephora, Lush, H&M) blasting dance music. Just as there are individuals running hustles on Eddy, there are street performers running another kind of hustle here. One night on Eddy, I encounter an older, probably homeless, gentleman who pressed a dying rose into my hands, I accepted and then handed the flower back with an apology that I had nothing to offer him. One day along the retail avenue, I saw two teenagers performing a Miley Cyrus song on an electric ukulele, for tips. Jeremy, the protagonist of Cinnamon and Cigarettes, had an artistic streak – the two poems in the play were written by him, and was homeless in his late teens. I could not help but wonder where he would have fit in the San Francisco landscape at different points in his life. Taking Cinnamon and Cigarettes to the San Francisco Fringe was an exciting and empowering experience and performing it in the Tenderloin, a sobering one.
- Asae Dean
2 Shows + Strike on Saturday, 724 miles in 16 hours along the Pacific Coast Highway on Sunday, and a 2.5 hr one shot only tech today: I am so grateful that Tuesday is a day of rest! The gratitude list for Cinnamon and Cigarettes just keeps growing. There are the individuals who shared their stories with Jenny as she worked on painting the fullest picture possible of Jeremy, there are the folks at the Fertile Ground Festival where Cinnamon and Cigarettes premiered, there is Danny Palmer who designed the beautiful poster, Tommy Harrington who shot our awesome trailer, the volunteer house managers including Wendy Philpott and Benjamin Newman who stayed and helped us strike on Saturday. It took us around two hours to restore lights and pull staples out of the canvas scrim that served as the backdrop to the show (there is another thank you - Anon It Moves who left that part of their set in place for us) and just like that, the Portland run of Cinnamon and Cigarettes, Salt and Sage's inaugural production had come to a close. You can tell from the photo below of Jenny, Cassie, and I how ecstatic we have been to share this work with audiences.
Then came that epic drive. Confession: I never learned to drive stick. Poor Jenny had to drive the entire trip. We schemed about Salt and Sage's future, swapped stories, and listened to favorite songs including Nine Inch Nails, who are actually growing one me!
Today, the special thanks list grew by six: Jenny's cousin's family - who are housing us while we Fringe it up - plus Amanda, SF Fringe Coordinator extraordinaire, and Curtis, our SF Fringe technician, who happens to share Jenny's love for Nine Inch Nails and asked Jenny after the run whether she every performs music apart from her work in the theatre. (She doesn't, however, who knows what the future holds!) Amanda and Curtis were two chill professionals who made what could have been the most stressful part of the last 72 hours (TECH) a relaxed, easy, productive affair in which we were able to feel the space, find our footing, and play.