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San Francisco Mime Troupe brings political comedy to Richmond

on July 25, 2011

Nearly 150 Richmond residents enjoyed a contemporary political comedy Sunday afternoon at Nicholl Park. Performed by the Tony Award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe, “2012—The Musical!” asked questions about privatization, public wealth and non-profits turning to corporations for funding.

The show’s plot revolves around a small political theater company called Theater BAM! Because of tough economic times they are debating staying true to their mission statement—telling stories that shape the world—or take money to produce something called “2012—The Musical!”

BAM!’s Artistic Director Elaine Marlowe believes wholeheartedly that corporate money taints politics and theater. Her cohorts think otherwise—including her investment banker sister, Suze. They believe corporate money could be a good thing for Theater BAM! Meanwhile, Suze’s boss, Arthur Rand, is tired of government regulations and tired of supporting grassroot politicians. Can his idea of a corporate candidate save Theater BAM! from going down the drain?

Playwright Michael Gene Sullivan said that as he was writing the play, he thought about what questions his audience might have regarding surviving in a society that only values profit, like: Does working for a big corporation that does more harm than good make them a bad person? “Ultimately the show’s idea is, it’s not just where you work, it’s that we are in a society that doesn’t give you a choice,” said Sullivan. “We need to change society so that we have more options.”

Sullivan said the show was a good fit for industrial towns like Richmond where corporations are major employers yet some also contaminate the local air and water.

The San Francisco Mime Troupe has been around since 1959. They have won three Off-Broadway Theater Awards and one Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theater. “2012—The Musical!” plays through September 25 and can be seen throughout the Bay Area: San Francisco, North Bay, East Bay, Peninsula and Santa Cruz. (You can find more information about the show’s schedule here.)

Richmond resident Amanda Pruitt said what she enjoyed about the show was that it used today’s concerns—the debt ceiling, home foreclosures, going green and composting—as a basis for part of the plot. The audience, she said, could focus on what is going on with our lives. “We need more of this,” said Pruitt. “This type of stuff is what we as residents enjoy. They’re not worried about paying a huge amount of money to come and enjoy a nice show.”

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the performance was very upbeat even though it had some serious messages about the environment and the relationship between corporations and politicians. “This is what this park should be for,” said McLaughlin. “All kinds of fun things—plays in the park, movies in the park, picnics in the park. It brings people together and has people talking.”

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Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

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