A pretty unique Pride Week offering kicks off Tuesday night at the historic, long shuttered and barely-seen-for-decades Hibernia Bank space at Jones and Market, and it's sure to be a campy queer romp in a very gay Gotham City.
The clever team from the recently formed Pop Culture Immersives — who brought us the grandly kinky Eyes Wide Shut spoof last fall, Thighs Wide Shut, at St. Joseph's Arts Society — is back with a 50-person cast of local kooks and queers, presenting Pride In Gotham. Tagline: The Dark Knight Came to Slay.
As you can imagine, this won't be a particularly faithful rendering of the Batman comic or mythology, but many familiar characters will be on hand for a Pride party hosted by Wayne Enterprises, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne. And suffice it to say, when some of Batman's familiar foes like Poison Ivy and the Riddler show up, things go very wrong and there's a mini-mystery to solve, for those who want to get interactive.
The Hibernia Bank space has long been a source of curiosity for many San Franciscans, just given that most of us have walked, ridden, or driven past it for years, and it's been boarded up and shut tight for all of those years. A full 11 years ago I wrote a story on SFist headlined "Hibernia Bank Might Finally Become Something Next Year," and guess what! It didn't.
The 1892 Beaux Arts bank is unique for the city, having survived the 1906 Earthquake and fire, with minimal damage, and it has not been a bank since 1985. In 2015 we heard the owners were looking for a tech tenant, or maybe a nightclub operator to take over. The place got a nice renovation around then and Hillary Clinton spoke at a campaign event there the following year. And around 2017 or 2018 the owners decided to turn it into a rentable event venue, which it has remained ever since — though there haven't been many publicly accessible events there.
Until now. The space has been transformed, with the main bank hall serving as the gala space where guests arrive and enjoy Champagne, intermingling with the gala guests who are actually actors. (Guests will also be treated to moments with guest MCs Peaches Christ and D'Arcy Drollinger this week, as well as the musical stylings of Miss Rahni Nothingmore.) And spaces both in the bank's basement and upper story have been transformed, with things like a Two-Face dancefloor, where a large spinning coin will dictate whether DJs Sugar and Spice play dance-y pop hits or dark, Berlin-style house music.
Poison Ivy will host the VIP lounge on the bank's upper level, which includes a posh spot underneath the grand rotunda.
Co-creator Michael Phillis, who created the all-male burlesque show Baloney and the drag character Patti from HR, told the Chronicle last week, "San Francisco has never looked or felt more like Gotham with all the privilege and potential living side by side with suffering and crime. ‘Pride in Gotham’ reflects that, with all these little morality tests and interactivity points where audience members can go with the good guys or choose to be bad."
And producer Daniel Sherman tells SFist that he's dying to bring these kinds of large-scale, immersive events back to the city — in the style of the popular Speakeasy show in North Beach, but way more queer.
"No two people ever have the same experience when you come to an immersive piece like this," Sherman says. "That's what I love about it. You're bound to interact with at least one of the performers during the course of the night, and whatever happens between you is never going to happen the exact same way again."
Sherman adds, "And this is a Pride party for us this week too, so hopefully the energy will be infectious."
Find both general admission and VIP tickets here, with the "show" starting Tuesday through Saturday night at 7 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m.