San Francisco Theatre That Gave Life to Angels in America Will Shut Its Doors

Regional News   San Francisco Theatre That Gave Life to Angels in America Will Shut Its Doors The historic theatre that premiered Tony Kushner’s two-part epic about the AIDS crisis will cease operation after 45 years.
Stephen Spinella and Ellen McLaughlin in Angels in America.
Stephen Spinella and Ellen McLaughlin in Angels in America. Joan Marcus

San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre, the birthplace of Tony Kushner’s landmark epic Angels in America, will shut its doors July 5.

In a statement announcing the news, theatre executives cited rising costs of production overhead, building maintenance, and the loss of appropriated arts funding from the city’s hotel tax as factors in the decision to cease operation 45 years after it was founded.

Originally founded as the Shorter Players in 1972 by Chris Silva, Robert Woodruff, and Carl Lumbly, the non-profit served as a hub for developing politically-charged works by emerging playwrights including Caryl Churchill, Dario Fo, and Emily Mann. It was renamed The Eureka Theatre in 1974.

Most notably, the Eureka stands as the birthplace of Angels in America.

Tony Kushner’s landmark drama about dawn of the AIDS crisis was commissioned in 1988 by the theatre’s artistic director Oskar Eustis. Millennium Approaches, the first half of the two-play epic, premiered at the Eureka in 1991. Perestroika, the second part of Angels in America, was developed and shaped there during the original run of Millennium Approaches. The two plays were ultimately staged in repertory on Broadway in 1993, going on to win the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

In recent years, the Eureka has served as a home for several San Francisco arts organizations, providing rehearsal and performance space for such companies as the Bay Area One-Act Festival, the San Francisco Sketch Comedy Festival, the LGBTQ-focused Eastenders Repertory Company, and 42nd Street Moon, which dedicates its programming to rarely-performed musicals.

The venue is slated to reopen under new management as the Gateway Theatre. Eureka’s archive of manuscripts, posters, and other materials will be gifted to the Museum of Performance + Design, while all of the fixtures and production equipment will be gifted to the 42nd Street Moon, which will remain at the venue under a new lease. The theatre’s remaining cash assets will go to the Lemonade Fund, which offers financial support to artists with illnesses.

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