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Friday, October 23, 2015

Folk Rock Odyssey Comes Full Circle at Z Space

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge AARON CONWAY
  • Aaron Conway

Lisa Steindler, the artistic director of Z Space, knows this may not be a popular thing to say – but she’ll say it anyway: She’s not really a musical theater person.

But to her, Hundred Days, the indie rock opera produced at Z Space, feels more like a concert, which is exactly the kind of enthusiasm she wants to bring to theater.

“I’m very interested in capturing the synergy that happens at concerts,” Steindler said. “People will plop down 50 bucks for a concert, but why not for theater? We’re starting to look at what kind of shows have that and how to do that.”

The creators of Hundred Days, Abigail and Shaun Bengson, will perform at a record release party and fundraising event for Z Space Tuesday. This event, “Hundred Days and Fund Our Plays,” feels like coming full circle to Steindler, after meeting the Bengsons four or five years ago and having a world premiere of the indie rock opera, which tells the story of a young couple whose time together will be cut short by illness. They decide to try and pack the 60 years they should have had together into their three months together. Now the two have done a new more condensed version and have an album of the show. A film may happen shortly.

A few things made the show a good fit for Z Space, Steindler says. One is the space itself. Not all theater works in an old warehouse — but this show did perfectly. Another thing is that Z Space puts on comedy, new media, dance and performance art, along with theater. Shows like Hundred Days, ambitious and adventurous — and not quite like anything else, are perfect for them, Steindler says.

“The first half is all concert and the second half is quite theatrical,” Steindler said. “That sort of hybrid is what we do here.”

Steindler is proud of Z Space’s willingness to take a chance on something new — but that can be hard to market. She thinks the answer is working closely with other theaters.

“We’re constantly looking for collaborations across the country,” she said. “It’s a way to survive by creating deep relationships with one another.”

Some of those relationships include one with the co-producer of Hundred Days, piece by piece productions. Space has also worked with the Wooster Group, Elevator Repair Service, and the Rude Mechs. Steindler says part of Z Space’s mission is developing new work, and at any time, they have about seven to 12 pieces they are working on, and the doors of the two venues, Z Space and Z Below open about 45 weeks out of the year.

“At Z Space we’re very committed to nurturing high quality theater,” Steindler said. “We want to put San Francisco heavily on the map as destination for theater.”

The theater also has community programs — such as a tech residency where people can use the space and equipment for free or close to it. There are also youth arts programs such as Word for Word, the company that does short stories verbatim, going into schools and working with the kids. Steindler calls this a wonderful program for literacy that has led to shy children to coming to life. Working with children is particularly important, she says.

“Theater and the arts should be a part of the curriculum,” she said. “If you don’t know what it is, you’re unlikely to go to it or value it.”

Hundred Days and Fund Our Plays, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m., at Z Space, 450 Florida, $25-$125.

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Emily Wilson


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