The `fun’ in fundraising

Upcoming theater fundraisers are going to let you fire it up and throw ’em down.

First up, this Saturday (Oct. 13), Crowded Fire Theatre Company is hosting a Chili Cookoff with foolsFury, Impact Theatre and the Playwrights Foundation.

Here’s the beauty part: in addition to a “fan favorite” chili, there will be a “critics choice” selected by a “celebrity” panel of judges comprising yours truly and the far more beautiful Chloe Veltman of the SF Weekly and Karen D’Souza of the San Jose Mercury News. Impact is already promising to burn our mouths.

New co-artistic director Kent Nicholson says: “We wanted to create an event that brought the Bay Area small theater community together. It’s more of a way to connect off stage with each other and our audience members than as a means for making money…though that’s an added bonus!”

The event, which will also feature bluegrass music by the Duck River Band, is from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the El Rio Bar, 3158 Mission St., San Francisco. Tickets are $1 each, and for one ticket, you get a chili “taster.” For three tickets you get a side dish, and for five tickets, you get a piping hot bowl of your favorite chili. All you can eat “gas passes” are $20 in advance and $30 at the door.

Purchase tickets at or at the door.

The mouth-burning folks at Impact are busy with a fundraiser of their very own. On Saturday, Oct. 20, the company hosts Full Houses: A Poker Tournament to Benefit Impact Theatre. Tickets are going fast (only 35 remain at this writing). Participants will play No-Limit Texas Hold-Em, with a massive prize pool up for grabs and pizza and desserts throughout the night.

Top prize is an 8GB Apple iPhone, and the runner-up prize is $200 in gift cards to Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. Anyone who gets a full house or better during the tournament, even if they don’t win the hand, gets one of the other prizes. And what are the other prizes you ask? Theater tickets, of course, to ACT, Berkeley Rep, Cal Shakes, Magic, Shotgun and other local companies. There are also gift cards of varying kinds, movie tickets, jazz concert tickets, an autographed “Simpsons” script. And more. Hey, even the first player out of the tournament gets a prize.

“We specialize in theater that’s relevant to our audience,” says Impact artistic director Melissa Hillman. “So naturally the kind of benefit we’d have is relevant to them, too. And of course, poker was meant to be played in a basement, and La Val’s Subterranean is the perfect basement for a benefit tournament like this. Best of all, you could be the worst poker player in the world and still win an awesome prize worth more than the buy-in just for getting a full house or better…or being the first one out.”

The tournament is limited to 54 players (must be 21 or older). The buy in for Full Houses is $50, with unlimited $25 re-buys for the first two hours of the tourney. Tickets are available at

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