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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

R.I.P.: The Dark Room (2004 - 2015)

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 2:00 PM


San Francisco just got about 20 percent less cool.

Ever since 2004, the Dark Room Theater at 2263 Mission has regularly put on stand-up comedy and sketch shows, as well as stage parodies of Star Wars, The Terminator, The Princess Bride, Duck Soup, The Wicker Man, the video game Asteroids (!), and many others, as well as an annual month-long run of live-action Twilight Zone episodes.

The Dark Room has also been the venue for a wide variety of events that most respectable establishments would have enough taste not to host, including but certainly not limited to my show Bad Movie Night, which made the world a stupider place every Sunday night for ten of those twelve years.

But all good things must come to an end — as well as things like Bad Movie Night, which was never "good" by any known definition — and on July 25, 2015, the Dark Room closed its big purple door.

I asked Jim Fourniadis, co-founder and northern star of the Dark Room, to tell it in his own words.
The Dark Room theater, an institution dedicated to unapologetic silliness, unceremoniously closed down this week, thus marking 12 years of shows, the majority of which were adapted and directed by me, Jim Fourniadis. When Erin Ohanneson and I started the place over a decade ago, the Mission was very different, and we felt right at home with the frantic energy. Freshly open and ready to conquer the world, we had an attitude – which I most directly credit to Erin – that there was nothing we couldn't do on our tiny stage

In our plays we tried to take something you'd seen perhaps a million times, Like The Shining or Goodfellas, and reinvent it so you could experience seeing it again for the first time, and realize the inherent goofiness hiding in nearly all films. Just like with Bad Movie night, though, our ribbing was always good natured and betrayed if anything our love of the films.

Helping Erin and I were several invaluable folks, most notably Rhiannon, our tech chick, Alexia Staniotes, the coolest and biggest wiseguy I know, Sherilyn Connelly, my Bad Movie Night coconspirator, and most recently Sean Wigglesworth and Tessa Riley who helped me keep the place open in the last couple of years.
On a personal aside, one of my most favorite moments at the Dark Room was participating in David Stein's The Gong Show in February 2006 as a "Celebrity Host," along with Dave McKew and Mikl-Em. Here, Denzil Meyers as the Unknown Comic tears into us as well as Craig Dickerson as Chuck Barris. Nine years later, this clip still makes me happy.

Final thoughts from Jim:
We always hoped we could keep the Dark Room open forever, but forces beyond our control saw to that and sadly we join the ranks of so many other venues that are just a memory. I'm not sure what's in store, and it would be easy to get depressed at the closing of your dream theater company, but I like to think how lucky I was for 12 years to have my job be making you people laugh. That's just fucking cool.
It truly doesn't get much cooler than that. And while the Dark Room is no longer what it once was, you'll have one more chance to experience it: starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, there'll be a garage sale to sell off years of theatrical trappings, including shirts, props, workstations, computers, and more. And I know what you're thinking: "That's all fine and good, but what about the marquee from the final Bad Movie Night?" Nope, that's spoken for.


However, at 8 p.m. that evening, the Dark Room's true last gasp will be a staged reading of one of our earliest productions, Batman: The TV Show: The Play. Admission is a small donation of your choosing to help pay the ferryman. (Charon gets cranky when he has to transport an entire community theater.)

There will be other cool things going forward in San Francisco — and you can bet that an old-timer in 2026 will tell a newcomer how much better San Francisco was in 2016 — but never anything quite like the Dark Room.


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Sherilyn Connelly

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