Stripping for a good cause

  • by Richard Dodds
  • Tuesday July 5, 2016
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Broadway Bares has been an annual New York tradition since 1991, raising nearly $16 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and now it's setting out to become a San Francisco tradition as well. Broadway Bares SF: Tech Tails inaugurates a West Coast outpost for the charitable striptease with a July 11 performance at Club Fugazi, better known as the home of Beach Blanket Babylon.

Fifty performers, including local talent, special guest stars, and members of the touring cast of Cabaret, perform routines that variously suggest the burlesque striptease of Gypsy Rose Lee, the stuff-a-bill-in-my-posing-strap erotica of the Chippendales, and contemporary Broadway styling, all put together by veteran Broadway performer Deb Leamy.

Scheduled guests include Randy Harrison (Cabaret, Queer as Folk), Jai Rodriguez (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), reality TV star Cassandra Cass, and American Idol finalist David Hernandez. The locally based Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF) has teamed with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to introduce Broadway Bares to San Francisco. REAF has been presenting Help Is on the Way cabaret-style shows since 1995, and will offer its latest edition in that series at the Herbst Theatre on Aug. 21.

The Broadway Bares enterprise began in 1992 as a shoestring effort by Jerry Mitchell, then a member of the chorus in The Will Rogers Follies, who enlisted several of his performer buddies to do a choreographed striptease routine at a Manhattan gay bar, and the next day he was able to deliver a pillow case filled with $8,000 in soggy bills to Broadway Cares. Mitchell's work on the increasingly elaborate Broadway Bares productions helped land him a job as choreographer on the strip-themed The Full Monty, and he has since won Tony Awards for choreographing La Cage aux Folles and Kinky Boots.

In the beginning, Broadway Bares inspired some controversy. "People asked, 'Is this the right way to raise money for AIDS?'" Mitchell recalled. "As a gay man myself, surrounded by friends dealing with HIV and AIDS, I could see that AIDS was taking away their dignity. Part of what I was trying to do was encourage people not to lose sight of their sexual selves and to celebrate their bodies in a safe and responsible way."

Tickets are available by calling (415) 421-4222.


Jef Valentine and Robert Molossi play patrons of the Last Chance Salon in Stale Magnolias: The Musical at Oasis. Photo: James Jordan

Musical 'Magnolias'

The blossoms needed a little watering, and now refreshed, are returning as Stale Magnolias: The Musical. Don Seaver and Sean Owens have added songs to Owens' mashup of southern-fried comedies, first staged in 2009 at the Glama-Rama Hair Salon and now premiering in a musicalized version on July 21 at Oasis.

The presenters of Stale Magnolias: The Musical see their show as "a sequel to Steel Magnolias, a lost season of Designing Women, and a second helping of Fried Green Tomatoes." The setting is the Last Chance Salon, where a group of women regulars gather weekly to have their hair enlarged. Rivalries, jealousy, revenge, and maybe even murder turn the salon into a cauldron that is burning hot even for Rectal, Texas.

Cora Values is directing a cast made up of such drag talents as Marilynn Fowler, Jef Valentine, Robert Molossi, Michael Phillis, Drew Todd, and Jerry Navarro. "Show-stopping wigs" by Jordan L'Moore are promised, and fair warning: Two lucky audience members nightly will be selected for a "Rectal Reclamation" makeover, with a chance to appear in the show's finale.

Stale Magnolias: The Musical will run through Aug. 6 at Oasis. Tickets are available at


Writers on the rise

Among the six plays that will have readings during the 39th annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival, subjects of dystopian futures, the invidious social world of the Web, and war-wrought family estrangements are on the agenda. And then there's the play about the boy next door.

Playwright Sarah Sander's Sycamore looks at a brother-sister rivalry over the new boy on the street during the Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

In Sarah Sander's Sycamore, with readings on July 17 & 23, teenage siblings both set amorous sights on the strange and quiet new boy in the neighborhood. This is not the first time that Henry, a gay math nerd, and Celia, a straight cheerleader, have been romantic rivals; their first competition over a boy had damaging impacts on both. "I'm exploring sibling rivalry, sexual fluidity, and costumes �" how we dress, and what that says about us," says Brooklyn-based playwright Sander.

The festival also includes Wild Goose Dreams (July 15 & 23), in which South Korean playwright Hansol Jung and composer Paul Castles find how two Koreans estranged from their families can find new frequencies for communication performed both by actors and a live choir.

In Boston-based Walt McGough's Non-Player Character (July 16 & 22), best friends Trent and Katja, designers of an online role-playing game, have a falling out, and Trent marshals an army of misogynistic internet trolls to wage real-life war against Katja.

Philana Omorotionmwan, the daughter of a Louisiana mother and a Nigerian father, looks to the year 2083 in her play Before Evening Comes (July 16 & 24). In this draconian future, the government has mandated that nearly all males of color be homebound and disabled as they reach manhood. But Mary, mother to four sons, is determined to find any way necessary to subvert her boys' fate.

In Good, Better, Best, Bested (July 17 & 23), Bay Area playwright Jonathan Spector imagines a motley crowd that's part of the ongoing Las Vegas street party who, when they learn about a devastating world crisis, must decide whether or not to party on. "One of the big questions the piece is wrestling with," says Spector, "is, What is our responsibility to tragic events that don't affect our lives directly?"

All readings take place at the Custom Made Theatre at 533 Sutter St., where SF Playhouse formerly made its home. Readings will be followed by a talkback with the playwrights. More info at