PlayGround, the Bay Area’s leading playwright incubator, and Art Space Development Corporation (ArtsDeco), owner of Thick House, announced today that PlayGround has signed a six-year master lease for the 78-seat black box theatre in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, with a five-year extension option through 2026. Under PlayGround’s leadership, the Thick House venue will expand its role as a hub for diverse small theatre companies and independent artists and a platform for the development and production of great new works. To that end, PlayGround has launched a $260,000 capital campaign to support significant capital improvements and continued artist accessibility/affordability and plans to temporarily close the venue for 6-8 weeks in late 2016/early 2017 to complete the renovations, including new HVAC, seating, lighting and signage. The renovated and renamed theatre (new name to be determined) will reopen mid-January 2017 with a community-wide celebration, showcasing the many artists and small theatre companies that call Thick House home and in recognition of the theatre’s new role as a center for new plays.
With the acquisition of the master lease, PlayGround will now have a stable home for its Best of PlayGround new play festival and full-length co-productions, as well as the ability to facilitate and curate an affordable, renovated venue for dozens of other new play producers and hundreds of independent artists. PlayGround will continue to produce its popular Monday Night PlayGround series at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and to provide its full suite of playwriting classes at its Berkeley PlaySpace. PlayGround began producing its annual Best of PlayGround festival at Thick House in 2008 and added co-productions of new full-length plays in 2014, including Diane Sampson’s Sleeping Cutie, Robin Lynn Rodriguez’s Hella Love Oakland, and Garret Jon Groenveld’s The Empty Nesters. To learn more about PlayGround's programs, the move to Thick House and the ways you can support these efforts, click here.
Part of the live-work building, Goodman 2, on 18th Street between Carolina and Arkansas Streets, Thick House was built in 1996 by ArtsDeco and Holliday Development and was initially operated by Thick Description. Over the years, the venue has attracted some of the Bay Area’s leading new play developers and producers, including Playwrights Foundation, Crowded Fire Theatre Company, Golden Thread Productions, foolsFURY, and 3Girls Theatre, among others.
Theatre artists need affordable space in which to develop and produce their work and this has become increasingly challenging during the most recent real estate boom in the Bay Area. Costs have skyrocketed and a large number of performance venues have been lost, converted to commercial use, or taken over by a single producing company. In this environment, Thick House has stood out as a beacon, offering affordable space for hundreds of independent artists and numerous small companies over the past seventeen years. Unfortunately, while Thick House has remained affordable, it has been unable to meet its full potential as a community resource due to poor ventilation, no air-conditioning, limited and aging equipment, and no ongoing facility management.
PlayGround is the longest-standing renter of Thick House, with a mission-driven purpose to serve the Bay Area’s leading independent artists and new voices for the stage. As such, PlayGround has taken on the master tenant lease for Thick House and is committed to renovating and improving the venue while ensuring it will remain accessible and affordable for Bay Area independent artists and small companies for years to come. PlayGround will utilize the Bay Area Performing Arts Spaces online database to provide a more transparent and streamlined system for artists and companies to learn about rental rates and availability, and will increase co-marketing of events taking place at the venue. In addition to the hundreds of artists and dozen companies who use Thick House, other primary beneficiaries of these efforts will be the audiences who attend performances at Thick House and the local businesses these audiences and artists patronize when in the neighborhood.
The capital campaign and renovations are being overseen by PlayGround co-founder and Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann, working closely with the PlayGround Board, staff, artists and a number of leading theatre consultants based in the Bay Area, including lighting designer York Kennedy, Charles Salter Associates acoustical engineers, and The Shalleck Collaborative theatre planners. While serving as Managing Director at A Traveling Jewish Theatre (1992-99), Jim oversaw the $875,000 construction and renovation of the theatre that is now Z-Below. It was during this time that Jim first worked with Charles Salter Associates on the installation of the high-efficiency, ultra-quiet HVAC system that currently cools that space. Subsequently, as Managing Director of Marin Theatre Company, Jim worked on the renovation of their second space, which was upgraded with refurbished seats, lighting, and risers to create a new black box theatre for the development/production of new works.
Art Space Development Corporation (ArtsDeco) is a California nonprofit corporation, founded to respond to the acute need of Bay Area artists for affordable space in which to live and work. Among its current real estate holdings, ArtsDeco owns and operates Thick House, located in San Francisco’s Goodman 2 live-work building.
PlayGround, the Bay Area’s leading playwright incubator, provides unique development opportunities for the Bay Area’s best new playwrights, including the monthly Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series, annual Best of PlayGround Festival, full-length play commissions and support for the production of new plays by local playwrights through the New Play Production Fund and, PlayGround’s newest initiative, the PlayGround Film Festival. To date, PlayGround has supported 200 local playwrights in the development and staging of more than 750 original short plays and 60 new full-length plays, including 18 that have since premiered in the Bay Area, New York and around the country. PlayGround alumni represent the who’s who of the Bay Area’s best new playwrights, including Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Aaron Loeb, Erin Bregman, Garret Jon Groenveld, Geetha Reddy, and Lauren Yee, among others. For more information, visit http://playground-sf.org.