SF Theater Which Birthed 'Angels in America' to Close After 45 Years

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Stephen Kanaski as Miss Understanding and Rudy Guerrero as Tick in 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert,' a Theatre Rhinoceros production at San Francisco's Eureka Theatre. Eureka will shut down on July 5 after 45 years.  (Photo: David Wilson)

The scrappy San Francisco theater company that birthed Angels in America, one of the most iconic American plays of the late 20th century, is closing after 45 years.

Founded in 1972, the Eureka Theatre helped to launch the careers of well-known actors, directors and playwrights, like Danny Glover and Anna Deavere Smith.

But it’s best known for commissioning Tony Kushner to write Angels in America. The searing political drama about the AIDS crisis had its world premiere at Eureka in 1991.

Kushner's drama went on to acclaimed runs on Broadway and the UK’s National Theatre, and in 2003 became a hit TV miniseries starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep.

Laird Rodet, Eureka's executive director, cites several reasons for the decision to shut down the company, including escalating maintenance costs on its venue, located on Jackson Street in the heart of San Francisco's Financial District.


"After our 10-year lease expired, the landlord, Gateway Partners, wanted to have year-to-year leases for all of their tenants including Starbucks, Safeway, Togo's and Eureka," Rodet says. "For a non-profit venue to have a year-to-year lease, it’s almost impossible to raise funds from foundations and individuals for renovations."

The Eureka Theatre Company has had two distinct identities over the past 45 years. It began as a producing organization.  But following a four-year hiatus in the late 1990s, it reemerged principally as a venue, renting subsidized performance space to other small Bay Area-based arts producers like 42nd Street Moon, SF Sketchfest and Theatre Rhinoceros for their shows.

42nd Street Moon is taking over the venue's lease, and will continue to sublet the space to other companies as well as produce its own shows there. The venue's name will change to Gateway Theatre.

"It’s in our interest to keep that space as our long-term home," says 42nd Street Moon executive director Daren Carollo. "We want that stability."

Carollo says his organization is in the process of negotiating a longer lease with Gateway Partners. "The Partners are interested in keeping arts as a vital part of space," Carollo says. "But they want a producing company in it."

Eureka will officially cease operations on Wednesday, July 5, following the final performance of Theatre Rhinoceros' musical production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.