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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Mar 27 1996
If the San Francisco Mime Troupe could telegraph its plight, its players would flash a semaphore for "Help!" The collective's free summer production in city parks is in trouble: Budget cuts at the National Endowment for the Arts mean that the troupe, which has received NEA money in the past, including $50,000 for its 1995 show, will get very little -- if anything -- from the federal agency in 1996.

Patrick Osbon, Mime Troupe general manager, explains that his organization is still planning and writing the show but must cut bait if it can't raise the money by June. (The production has traditionally toured the city's parks from the Fourth of July through Labor Day.) Relying on corporate sponsorship isn't really an option, one Mime Trouper points out, because the group built its reputation on skewering big companies. So the actors are turning to the small foundations and private donors who last year gave $28,000 in post-performance donations.

Meanwhile, Osbon says, the Mime Troupe has asked the city's Recreation and Park Department to waive usage fees (about $7,500) and keep the restrooms open on the days when the company performs to eliminate the cost of renting portable latrines ($3,500).

According to Joel Robinson, Rec and Park superintendent of recreation, the department's commissioners must vote on the request. Though Robinson notes that similar requests "come up periodically," this is a first for the Mime Troupe, which has faithfully paid the fees since it began performing in the parks in 1961. As for the restrooms, Robinson says, "By all means we'll keep them open" if he can juggle the staff attendants.

It's not as though the Mime Troupe has been profligate, Osbon remarks. To trim $80,000 from the annual budget, he says, "We cut our overhead; we've taken pay cuts; we eliminated two full-time positions." He notes the irony in "booking all over the country" the troupe's show about the Chiapas uprising (which had already received grants dedicated to its production), but that the one show the Mime Troupe is known for locally "is in danger of not making it."

Food Fight
Supervisor Kevin Shelley made no bones about how it felt to have his own people -- west of Twin Peaks Irish-Americans -- heckle, boo, and, yes, pelt him with comestibles.

"I'm here to tell you that what you've read in the press is entirely true," he said to a throng of supporters gathered at 330 Ritch Street to raise money for his Assembly bid. He was referring, of course, to the incident at the Irish Cultural Center last week when he tried to present Frank Jordan with an award for his years of service as mayor. The assembled Jordanaires booed and someone tossed a plate of food on Shelley's jacket. All the while, Jordan stood still and did nothing -- a deft metaphor for his feeble mayoralty. Shelley quickly moved on to other topics in addressing his supporters, but later buttonholed a reporter to confide his hurt:

"It was just pathetic," he said of the food fight. "But I just want to forget it. I know who these people are. I have relatives just like them. They are older, white, racist, right-wingers."

The Reports of Its Demise ...
Seeing as SF Weekly has devoted itself to noting every defection of staff from the Examiner to the Chronicle, it's only fair to note that the river can flow in the other direction. This week, Chronicle Deputy Sports Editor Leba Hertz joined the Examiner as sports news editor.

By John Sullivan, George Cothran, Jack Shafer


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