Bertolt Brecht wanted theater to be for the people, not the power. In order for that to happen, tickets need to be cheap. Luckily, many local venues are committed to fulfilling Brecht’s directive, at least in terms of money, by ensuring that their shows are accessible to people of all income levels. With these shows costing less than the latest soulless CGI flick you just saw, what’s stopping you from spending the night at the theater?
Even though they call the new and soon to be solar-powered Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby, Berk. 510-841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org) home, the Shotgun Players haven’t forgotten their humble roots in the basement of a pizza parlor. They make their innovatively staged plays accessible to folks on a pizza budget by holding a pay-what-you-can first week for every production.
Theater company Central Works stages all of its collaboratively written, developed, and produced plays in a dining room of the Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant, Berk. 510-558-1381, www.centralworks.org). You’ve never seen drama this close, and rarely so inexpensive: tickets are on a sliding scale and start at $9.
All shows are pay what you can at CounterPULSE (1310 Mission, SF. 415-626-2060, www.counterpulse.org), which presents theater, dance, music, and interdisciplinary performances — all with a political and cultural edge.
The African-American Shakespeare Company (African American Art and Culture Complex, Buriel Clay Memorial Theater, 762 Fulton, SF. 415-762-2071, ext. 1) brings an African American perspective to classical works by such playwrights as William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, and Aristophanes. All preview performances cost $5.
Strange things happen on the tiny stage of the Dark Room (2263 Mission, SF. 415-675-9963, www.darkroomsf.com) and at a very reasonable price. Pay $5 to watch performers compete for the honor of being named the worst act in the city (and claiming the title of Miss American Fido) on the last Thursday of the month or heckle the screen during Monday’s Bad Movie Night — which is sort of like Mystery Science Theater 3000, only live.
Established in 1965 specifically to find creative ways of addressing the Vietnam War, Intersection for the Arts (446 Valencia, SF. 415-626-2787, www.theintersection.org) is the oldest nonprofit arts space in San Francisco. Its resident theater company, Campo Santo, performs and helps create challenging plays by local playwrights and nationally known authors such as Denis Johnson. Every Thursday is pay what you can at this community theater and gallery.
The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (2640 College, Berk. 510-845-8542, www.juliamorgan.org) is the latest Bay Area venue to provide a stage for storytellers and solo performers. Its “Tell it on Tuesdays” series (the last Tuesday of every month) costs as little as $8, and it has seen performers such as Jeff Greenwald and Ron Jones spin a good yarn.
The clever people at Last Planet Theatre (351 Turk, SF. 415-440-3505, www.lastplanettheatre.com) have devised the best way to bring the cost of your theatergoing experience below silver-screen prices: pay two for one on Thursdays. Bring a date and check out the avant-garde experience this nine-year-old company — which has staged works by Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder — has to offer.
Impact Theatre picks up where Shotgun left off, at La Val’s Subterranean (1834 Euclid, Berk. www.impacttheatre.com), the basement of a pizza parlor. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Impact produces some of the hippest, edgiest new plays around and lets you watch them for whatever you want, so long as seats are still available a half hour before the show starts.
Over at Sam Shepard’s old stomping ground, the Magic Theatre (Fort Mason Center, bldg. D, third floor, Marina at Laguna, SF. 415-441-8822, www.magictheatre.org) continues to bring fresh work and plenty of world premieres to audiences. The 40-year-old space has a sliding-scale ticket price on Wednesdays that dips down to $5, and it also holds a minimum of 10 last-minute tickets for $10, available 30 minutes before curtain.
You never know what’s going to sprout up at Monday Night Marsh, held at the Marsh (1062 Valencia, SF. 415-826-5750, www.themarsh.org) for just $7. The curated almost-weekly event puts performers, improv artists, storytellers, musicians, clowns, and any combination thereof in its black box. The only rule is no fire in the house.
Home to Footloose, which incubates primarily women’s work, Shotwell Studios (Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th St., SF. 415-920-2223, www.ftloose.org) is the place to see contemporary dance and the occasional comedy night, and every show is pay what you can.
Keep your fingers crossed that shows at Z Space Studio (131 10th St., third floor, SF. 415-626-0453, www.zspace.org) don’t sell out. The venue, which also helps performing artists and playwrights bring their ideas to fruition and then sends them off on tour, offers pay-what-you-can rush tickets on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Call first to make sure the deal applies to the show you want to see. *