SHN SF, the organization that brings Broadway touring companies to SF stages, has something up its sleeve for The Old Mint, and I'm dying to know what. As the Chronicle reported this week, the big, old historic building at 5th and Mission is being taken out of the hands of the non-profit that's been in control of it for the past 11 years, in large part because they haven't fulfilled their promise to restore the building and turn it into a historical museum. So with that lease up, it frees the city up to figure something else out, and in the meantime, it's going to be leased in the interim by SHN. But for what?!
SFist reached out to SHN, and they officially replied with, "No comment." Currently SHN operates the Orpheum Theater at Market and Hyde, the Golden Gate Theater at Taylor, and the Curran Theater on Geary all very traditional venues with proscenium stages.
Since 2004, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society has held the lease on the Old Mint with the idea that they would raise money for its renovation, and seismic upgrades. They were able to raise enough to clean it up and open it as an event venue, but the fundraising stalled there.
One would imagine that as a theater venue, the Mint would lend itself well to a mobile, interactive theater experience like Sleep No More, the modernized riff on Macbeth that's been playing off-Broadway in New York for several years. (The Mint was used back in 2010 for a mobile dance performance that utilized multiple rooms, called Traveling Light.)
Or there's things like Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh's take on Macbeth itself, which was done last year at the Park Avenue Armory in New York where they turned the huge old building into a "war zone," as Times critic Ben Brantley described it.
Interactive theater is actually trending, with the success last year of The Speakeasy here in SF, and a slew of shows in New York that have been inspired by Sleep No More's success things like Play/Date which is performed in a bar, and Drunk Shakespeare, which is described as "half-Shakespeare and half-improv comedy," and is performed at a mid-town restaurant.
The wisdom here, on the part of SHN, is likely that younger audiences are really into this stuff, and what better place to try it out in SF than in the grand, spooky Old Mint, complete with its dark basement corridor, and big outdoor patio.
But I'm just tossing out guesses here until we get the official word. Stay tuned.