It’s hard to talk about the history of theater in San Francisco without talking about SF Mime Troupe. So we were pumped when we saw the notice for this summer’s show Freedomland, since DT&D hadn’t had a chance to review one of their plays yet. First just to clarify – SF Mime Troupe is not silent. As their website explains:
The San Francisco Mime Troupe does not do pantomime. We mean ‘mime’ in the ancient sense: to mimic. We are satirists, seeking to make you laugh at the absurdities of contemporary life, and at the same time see their causes. We travel the country and the world with our message of solidarity, comedy, and the plight of the worker in our increasingly corporatized democracy, and have done shows about most of the burning issues of our time – normally debunking the official story. And because we want our shows about the issues of the day to be seen by the people who are most effected by those issues- working class families who can’t always afford to the ticket prices at the other Tony award winning theaters – we perform most of our shows free in public parks, for tens of thousands of our fellow citizens every summer.
So off we went, to join our fellow San Franciscans for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks!
Katie: That was really fun to see a Mime Troupe Show! I highly respect them as a company, and it’s been years since I’ve seen one of their shows. It’s great that they still tackle very topical and important issues in their work. Nothing is more timely right now than the Black Lives Matter movement.
Brittany: One of my favorite theater genres is social justice theater. I’ve always dug the work that was done during the WPA. Unions and political groups using the stage to pass on revolutionary messages through humor and art. I really appreciate that SF Mime Troupe is keeping that kind of theater alive.
K: At times though, it felt like they took a complex issue and oversimplified it. There were some talented actors, but in trying to create such one-dimensional examples of bad-guys and good-guys, they limited the complexity of the characters.
B: I guess that’s one of the failings of this kind of theater. I wasn’t expecting complex character arcs, so I wasn’t disappointed.
K: True, I guess I just don’t prefer this kind of theater, but it was well done. I appreciate that this piece choose to show us long-term institutionalized injustices that compound over the course of a black person’s life. Systemic injustices that they endure over and over again, and then when they’re stressed, or fed-up, or what have you, they finally stand up for their rights and that’s when the events escalate to make an otherwise ordinary oppressive encounter turn deadly.
B: I liked that they were blunt, that it didn’t have a happy ending like most musicals, and that they didn’t try to sugarcoat it, while they still somehow made it funny. The only thing I do wish is that there was a better call to action at the end. At the end of the play I wish the audience had jumped to their feet and had started chanting Black Lives Matter, because they were so moved by the injustices they saw on stage. I feel like that should be the ultimate goal of this sort of piece, and the audience just didn’t get there – they clapped – they were possibly intellectually moved – but they didn’t take to the streets. It didn’t have quite the oomph, or the solution. I guess there isn’t an easy solution, but I wish there was.
The Verdict: Who doesn’t love a day in the park? Who doesn’t love free theater? SF Mime Troupe’s Freedomland allows you to enjoy both, while being funny, topical and maybe even a bit revolutionary. Go see it when it comes to a park near you!
The Drama Talk: They did a good job of using humor to lighten up what could be an incredibly heavy topic and made it accessible. The actors are uniformly talented, and for such a small cast (only 4 people) they convincingly play a wide variety of very different characters. The music is good, as is the band, but you don’t really leave this show humming a tune. It’s a show that makes you think, which is one of the best things theater can do.
The Drinks: Since this show is normally in a park, we suggest BYOB (when allowed), but since we saw the show at the SF Mime Troupe space, we availed ourselves of the vino there.
Freedomland runs through September 7th, so even though we’re nearly halfway through the run, you still have time. Nearly all of the performances are donation based, so while you should totally throw SF Mime Troupe a few to keep this great company going strong, you can just show up. Even thought the show we saw was in the SF Mime Troupe space, nearly all the rest are outside in parks all over the Bay Area and beyond. You can check out the SF Mime Troupe website for more details, but here’s a list of the remaining shows this summer:
Frances Willard/Ho Chi Minh Park
Sat, Aug 8th @ 2:00 PM (Music 1:30)
Sun, Aug 9th @ 2:00 PM (Music 1:30)
Hillegass Ave. & Derby St., Berkeley
San Lorenzo Park
Sat, Aug 15th @ 3:00 PM (Music 2:30)
Sun, Aug 16th @ 3:00 PM (Music 2:30)
San Lorenzo Park, Santa Cruz
Post-show discussion after 8/15/15. No dogs, alcohol, or smoking allowed in park.
Sat, Aug 22nd @ 2:00 PM (Music 1:30)
Bosworth & O’Shaughnessy, San Francisco
Mitchell Park, South Field
Sun, Aug 23rd @ 4:00 PM (Music 3:30)
600 East Meadow Drive & Cowper Street, Palo Alto
St. James Park
Tue, Aug 25th @ 6:30 PM (Music 6:00)
3rd Street & E. St. James Street, San Jose
Southside Park, Bandshell
Sat, Aug 29th @ 5:00 PM (Music 4:30)
6th & T St., Sacramento
Sun, Aug 30th @ 7:00 PM (Music 6:30)
East 14th & F St., Davis
Bay View Opera House, Outdoor Plaza
Wed, Sep 2nd @ 6:30 PM (Music 6:00)
Bay View Opera House, San Francisco
Peacock Meadow in Golden Gate Park
Sat, Sep 5th @ 2:00 PM (Music 1:30)
JFK Drive & Peacock Meadow, San Francisco Btwn Panhandle and Conservatory of Flowers
Sun, Sep 6th @ 2:00 PM (Music 1:30)
Mon, Sep 7th @ 2:00 PM (Music 1:30)
19th St. & Dolores St., San Francisco
Post-show discussion after 9/6/15