City Guide: San Francisco

A guide to San Francisco written by Bush Theatre Literary Intern Rachel Cunningham about her home town.

Best place to see new plays, new work, and why…

With a history of Sam Shepherd being their first playwright-in-residence, Magic Theatre in the beautiful Marina district still holds onto its tradition of developing the best playwrights both in the Bay Area and beyond.  Their Virgin Play Series is a five week festival which features a new play each week. This year, Kimber Lee, who will have a residency at the Bush, was one of the playwrights featured in the Virgin Play Series.

The San Francisco Mime Troupe has a history of being one of the most radical theatres in the United States. They continue to produce bold works of devised political and satirical theatre that are ripped from America’s headlines.  They perform in San Francisco parks for free so that theatre remains accessible for all.

It’s also well worth checking out the Storyworks series at Tides Theatre. This collaboration between Tides Theatre and the Center for Investigative Reporting commissions playwrights to create pieces of theatre from pieces of journalism. The plays change and develop as the stories are updated and investigation continues, making it an unusual and ever-changing series of stories from the Bay Area community and beyond.

Best place to have a coffee and write…

There are, expectedly, a glut of outrageously hip coffee shops in San Francisco but personally,  I find myself at the Dolores Park Café more often than not. Not only is the juice bar fantastic, its location right across from Dolores Park is unbeatable. Right down the street from Mission Dolores and a short distance from the Castro, this area is a beautiful merging of the historical and contemporary San Francisco. On a sunny day, it boasts one the most picturesque views of San Francisco, with both downtown and palm trees in sight.

The playwriting/theatre/artistic community in San Francisco is…

Political, diverse, and proud of the atmosphere of artistic nourishment in the Bay Area

Where to go to get inspired

There are plenty of inspiring spaces in the heart of the city, but like any California native, the lure of the Pacific Ocean is strong for me. Ocean Beach features a lovely walk along The Great Highway (no, I know how that sounds, trust me, it’s really pretty). It’s quiet and peaceful, the perfect place to think and be awed by nature. There are dog-walkers, bikers, surfers, and the occasional outdoor yoga class to keep you company. The north end of the beach features the historic Cliff House, an underrated San Francisco landmark.

New plays from San Francisco are…

Politically charged and tuned in to national issues

San Francisco Essentials

Burritos in the Mission, coffee at the Ferry Building, the view at the Legion of Honor, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers and the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, a walk along Baker Beach, a bike ride around the Presidio, a visit to Haight-Asbury, free samples at the Saturday morning farmer’s market at the Ferry Building, pizza in North Beach, a visit to the poetry room at City Lights Bookstore, seeing the gates of Chinatown, walking under the waterfall at Yerba Buena Gardens, climbing Coit Tower, Market Street during Critical Mass, a Giants Game at Pac Bell (AT&T Park to you out-of-towners), posing for a picture in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, a drink in the Castro, a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge

Writers to read

Anna Deavere Smith is right at the top of the list. Since receiving her MFA at American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in San Francisco, she has worked all over the United States and beyond and often returns to the Bay Area, recently performing with Berkeley Rep. Luis Alfaro is a Los Angeles based playwright but this California playwright’s  work can regularly be seen in the City by the Bay.

An image that represents San Francisco for you


Out of town

My favourite place to go outside of the city limits is the beautiful Marin county town of Sausalito. It’s a quick hop on the ferry across the Bay and the views of the city are absolutely stunning. Not far from there is Muir Woods, one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country, and home to an absolutely incredible Redwood Forrest. If you are interested, a visit to Silicon Valley is worth it if you love a technology mecca, but if visiting the Google campus isn’t your thing, Stanford University’s campus is worth visiting, along with beautiful old movie theatre on University Ave which still has an organ which rises out of the floor and plays before movies. Finally, no trip to the Bay Area would be complete without a visit to Berkeley. It’s a colourful college town, but it’s a fun place to eat and explore. Make sure you stop by Berkeley Rep, one of the finest repertory theatres in the United States.