Free theater at SF Theater Festival

For a fifth year, some of the best and brightest in the Bay Area theater community will gather in the vicinity of the Yerba Buena Gardens for the annual San Francisco Theater Festival.

This one-day extravaganza on Sunday, July 27, features 100 shows on 14 stages from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’ve got your plays, musicals, solo performers, improv, staged readings, new work, excerpts and more. And it’s all free, free, free.

Here’s how organizers attempt to summarize the event: “Broadway and original musical comedy, gritty black experience, Vietnam, racism, Jewish ritual, jazz opera premiere, World War II, Iranian storytelling, U.S. policy, culture, dating, Gilbert & Sullivan, aging and beauty, Turkish belly dancing, marching bands, puppetry, love and relationships, Lorca, Shakespeare’s insults, new local writers, old-time radio mystery, Rocky Horror SF, the president’s challenge, Nazi justice, SF’s 1863 drug scene, circus, barbershop quartet, shopping, teen singers, sketch improv comedy, antique roadshow spoof, absurd theater, inter-species love. relationships, conservation, jug band, folk tales, poetry, Asian identity, God & man, magic, illusion, clowning…”

Whew. And now here are some of the featured companies: The Marsh, Tell It on Tuesday, 42nd Street Moon, Stagebridge, No Nude Men Productions, Three Wise Monkeys, Uncle Buzzy’s Show. The One Act Players, AtmosTheatre, ArcLight, San Francisco Buffoons, Golden Thread Fairytale Players, Galatean Players, SF Recovery Theatre, Triple Shot Theater, Acme Players. Lower Bottom Playaz, Wordslanger and many more.

The venues include the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Zeum and the Metreon.

“This is the chance to discover some wonderful performers, shows and theater groups that are under the radar as well as others that are more well known,” says organizer Bill Schwartz. “It’s casual, fun and festive. Theater in earlier days was a people’s art form that now has become exclusive and pricey. This festival brings it back to its roots. It’s truly accessible.”

Yerba Buena Gardens is between Mission and Folsom streets and Third and Fourth streets in San Francisco. MUNI and BART stops abound. Visit www.sftheaterfestival.org for information.