Why I go to San Francisco for musicals

I just came back from a weekend in San Francisco where I saw two musicals, Pippin at SHN Golden Gate Theatre, and Motown, The Musical at SHN Orpheum Theatre. Pippin was great, Motown was spectacular. The only modern-music musical that I’ve seen that surpassed it was Beautiful, the Carole King biography, also at SHN.

Many though not all of these national traveling shows come to Sacramento, most often hosted California Musical Theatre’s Broadway Sacramento at the Sacramento Community Center Theater, which has the tagline of “superb acoustics, unobstructed views,” though some are also hosted at California Musical Theatre’s Music Circus at the Wells Fargo Pavilion. Most of these come through for only a week or two, rather than the five to eight weeks they play in the bay area, and many never come.

So why do I go to San Francisco? Well, let me say up front that I go in part because I love San Francisco, I’m happy when I’m there, I do a lot of things including going to the ocean, to museums, to listen to Irish music, to visit friends, to ride my bike, to eat good bread (Arizmendi and Acme), and I could go on for pages.

But the main reason I go is that I can hear the musicals, and the plays. I don’t think I missed a single word or line in either Pippin or Motown. The sound is crisp and clear. It is loud enough without being too loud. In contrast, Sacramento Community Center Theater sucks. The sound is muddy. I often miss key dialog. In order to overcome the acoustic weakness of the hall, the sound gets cranked up way over the capabilities of the sound system. I have attended several plays and musicals that were so painfully loud I thought of just walking out. In fact, two of the professional community theatres in Sacramento, Capital Stage and B Street Theatre mainstage have considerably better sound quality than the Sacramento Community Center Theater. Maybe the comparison in unfair, as these are small theatres, but when I can pay $32 for a ticket and hear great sound in a small intimate venue with sufficient bathroom capacity, why would I want to pay $43 to $95 (and higher for the popular shows such as Wicked) for muddy sound, in a huge impersonal venue with insufficient bathroom capacity?

In the San Francisco theatres, sight lines are good too. From my seat in the balcony, about two feet of the top of the SHN Golden Gate stage was cut off. I remember seeing Wicked in Sacramento, and more than a third of the stage was cut off from my seat. I missed a lot of action that happened at the edges and top of the stage. And I was in one of the more expensive seats, the Grand Tier rather than the Second Tier. I wonder if people in the Second Tier could even see the stage.

SNH Golden Gate Theatre was built in 1922 and refurbished in 1979, and seats up to 2200. SHN Opheum Theatre was built in 1929 and restored in 1998, and seats 700. Sacramento Community Center Theatre was built in 1974 and seats 2,398, which is larger than any of the theatres in San Francisco. You would think that would allow them to sell lower priced tickets, but the ticket prices are the same or higher.

The concrete bunker that is the Sacramento Community Center Theater will never have good sound, no matter how much is spent on renovation. The only solution is to tear it down and start over. I’m sure the convention center would like to expand into that area. There are a number of empty or developable lots around downtown. In fact the city owns a number of potential locations. Or at least did, until they gave away the properties to the Kings.

So please,

tear down the Sacramento Community Center Theater

and give us a new great place to see musicals, plays, and other cultural performances.

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Theatre Summer 2014

Another season of plays, fourteen this time. My favorite was Songs from An Unmade Bed, New Helvetia Theatre’s one-man performance by Conner Mickiewicz. I was leery – could he really pull it off? – but he did, in fine form and voice. I saw Into the Woods (Sondheim & Lapine) at San Francisco Playhouse. This is my favorite play of all time, and one I have seen far more than any other. This performance was on par with others, but not the best. The best was actually the very first one, in Chico, put on by a community theatre whose name I don’t even remember. Chico Theatre Company is in the space now, but they say they started in 2004, and I saw the play about 1991. I think I have seen the play seven times now.

  • 2014-09-18  CapStage: Tribes
  • 2014-09-17  STC: Taming of the Shrew (Young Professionals Conservatory)
  • 2014-09-05  Green Valley: The Light in the Piazza
  • 2014-08-29  Teatro Espejo: Enslaved
  • 2014-08-28  B Street: The Conference of the Birds
  • 2014-08-13  Cap Stage: Orchid Child (Playwright’s Revolution)
  • 2014-08-12  Cap Stage: Black Fly Spring (Playwright’s Revolution)
  • 2014-08-02  SF Playhouse: Into the Woods
  • 2014-08-01  Big Idea Theatre: The Language Archive
  • 2014-07-27  Ovation Stage: The Flu Season
  • 2014-07-12  SHN: Once
  • 2014-07-11  New Helvetia Theatre: Songs from an Unmade Bed
  • 2014-07-10  Shakespeare Davis: Much Ado About Nothing
  • 2014-07-08  B Street: Provenance
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lower Mokelumne River Canyon

mokelumne river

Mokelumne River

Two years ago I hiked the upper Mokelumne River canyon, from Highway 4 to Camp Irene, one of the more rugged and certainly the most brushy hike I’ve done (photos, but no blog post). This summer I walked the remainder of the canyon from Camp Irene to Salt Springs Reservoir.

I spent two days with my friend Steffani who lives near Pollock Pines, and after a day hike to Granite Lake near Silver Lake off Highway 88, she dropped me there and I walked back into Granite Lake. From there I walked into the wilderness at Horsethief Springs and on to Munson Meadow, where I camped up on a ridge overlooking the canyon, in part to avoid the thick mosquitos in the meadow area.

Continue reading

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cross-posts from Granite Chief

Two recent posts on my Granite Chief blog about my first two backpack trips of the year into this wilderness:

With these, I think I’ve caught up on everything I wanted to on my personal blog. I missed a seasonal update for the solstice, but it will just have to wait for fall.

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ADT3/4 plus North Fork

Eldorado Stream bridge on American Discovery Trail

Eldorado Stream bridge on American Discovery Trail

Memorial Day weekend I returned to the foothills for backpacking. I walked the American Discovery Trail from Auburn to Foresthill, which is section 4, and then to Michigan Bluff, and down into El Dorado Canyon to the bridge, part of section 3. I thought that I had previously walked all of these sections when I did the Western States Trail in July 2012, but leaving the confluence the ADT goes north of the Middle Fork American River while the Western States goes south of the river, so there was new trail for me. I was intending on doing a GPS track but a setting on my iPad that I thought would make the battery last longer in fact did quite the opposite, so my battery was gone well before reaching Foresthill. Some other time!

The hillsides were well dried out in some areas, the flowers largely gone, but in a few rocky flower gardens and moister areas flowers were still coming on. The weather was hot in the afternoons, but quite pleasant in the mornings and evenings. The snowberry shrubs were in flower along the creeks and draws, beautiful white spots among the green.

I camped at the bridge over El Dorado and discovered that there are feral cherry trees all through the area which was no doubt a homestead long ago. There are mines scattered throughout the canyons, and this trail was a main route during the mining period.

Leaving the canyon and retracing my footsteps to Michigan Bluff, I headed north towards the North Fork American River, thinking I might walk to Colfax. Indeed I did, though it was long and mostly boring walking along forest roads. The area around Sugar Pine Reservoir was a zoo of travel trailers and drunk boaters and swimmers, but by the time I got to Iowa Hill all was quiet again. I had a beer and talked to the owner of the Iowa Hill store. Amazing that such a small town has a store and restaurant when many larger towns no longer do. I camped up top, then walked down into the canyon and spend the day upstream of the Iowa Hill bridge, swimming and reading, and camped aside the river. The next morning I walked up to Colfax.

That morning I had breakfast with my friend Lea at Cafe Luna, and since the train was very late, we talked and then walked and then ate again and then talked some more. We also had dinner before the trip in Auburn, but that was not as relaxed.

I have not spend time along the North Fork, other than hiking down into the canyon south of Camp Winthers many times, but that is well east of here. The canyon is rugged enough that it would be difficult to go in and out except on trails, but there are some old trails that I think worth exploring, including the mining era main road which is now a trail.

Photos on Flickr

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Escalante horse trip

Joe Herbst beneath Wingate cliffs

Joe Herbst beneath Wingate cliffs

Still catching up with posts…

This spring break I joined my friend Joe in the Escalante area of southern Utah, riding horses and mules. Crossed the Escalante to the east side and camped off the Burr Trail on White Canyon Flat. From there we took a series of day rides, exploring the canyons that head west towards the river, and the draws that head east towards the Circle Cliffs.

We went down three different canyons, but they all narrowed up and became too rough to ride. They are beautiful and intricate, though, as they cut down through the White Rim sandstone.

Riding east towards the Circle Cliffs, we followed one draw up to a spectacular overlook of a canyon in the Waterpocket Fold, a tributary of Muley Twist Canyon. Another ride took us down a canyon that wound down into the edge of the fold, a variety of cliff aspects on every turn. It ended, for us, in a dry fall, though one could hike further down. Another day we rode up a draw to the base of the Circle Cliffs, 400 feet of red sandstone weathered into cracks and arches and spires. From there we rode along the top of the Shinarump formation that separates the flats from a “behind the ridge” area below the Circle Cliffs. We also explored other draws that go up through the Shinarump rim.

The weather that week was much colder than had been forecast, so we spent the nights with Joe’s titanium stove inside his teepee tent. A pretty slick setup! The days were nice, though, cool to warm, with a few light showers. A full moon eclipse occurred, and we stayed up to watch it, Joe lasting the whole time but me staying up for only the first part, and then hitting the sleeping bag.

Though this was spring break week, we saw very few people. Of course we saw no hikers because this is not known as the spectacular part of the Escalante canyons, though it compares well with the rest. But there were very few cars on the Burr Trail, which we expected would be chock full of people driving to Capitol Reef and beyond. Was it too cold for people? Did they all go somewhere else?

This is our second riding trip in the Escalante, the previous being spring break 2007. Far too long, both to spend quality time with Joe, and to be away for the Escalante. We may do it again in two years instead of seven. Though riding keeps us out of some of the most spectacular deep canyons, there are certainly many other areas to explore, years worth.

Photos on Flickr

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Theatre: Summer 2012

Not new information, but posting older information I had not posted before. This is the last one, since I started keeping track of plays in this season of summer 2012, though I was going to plays in Sacramento for a year before that.

  • 2012-09-06 BigIdea: Red Herring
  • 2012-08-24 CapStage: Playwrights Revolution
  • 2012-08-23 CapStage: Playwrights Revolution
  • 2012-08-22 CapStage: Playwrights Revolution
  • 2012-08-21 CapStage: Playwrights Revolution
  • 2012-08-16 B St: Seminar
  • 2012-08-09 CapStage: Dying City
  • 2012-08-03 SHN Theatres: Les Miserables
  • 2012-07-30 B St: Shakespeare Abridged
  • 2012-07-19 B St: Sketchy
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