PianoFight Productions: WTF?

PianoFight*: what kind of a name for a theatre company is that?

When I asked this of Rob Ready, cofounder of PianoFight Productions, he responded cryptically: “Most people think it’s Piano Flight.” He offered no further explanation.

When I first met Mr. Ready, he was dressed as Santa Clause, with requisite twinkle in eye. This was not a costume party, but took place at a performance of PianoFight’s annual Christmas production: Merry Forking! Christmas. You’ll find my review here, in which I noted I had not heard so many bad and funny jokes come at me since first seeing the movie Airport!

Another quote from Mr. Ready: “Theatre without beer is ridiculous.”

That is why PianoFight promotes a BYOB (bring your own booze) policy and on occasion passes out bottles from the stage.

Have you caught on that these cats are a bit unusual in their approach?

Most theatre companies talk a lot about art, and the purpose of theatre, and other high falutin’ stuff that is important and valuable and not to be hissed it. But it does tend to encourage the supposition, by hipsters and the like, that theatre is not exactly exciting stuff. PianoFight skips the high culture promotion in favor of some rather startling alternatives: the audience judged playwrighting competition, for example, or (my favorite) “Throw Rotten Veggies At The Actors Night”, or the aforementioned Merry Forking! Christmas show during which audience members vote on how the play will proceed at key turning points in the plot (that, of course, is what the “forking” refers to).

So do you think I’ve established that Piano Fight is kind of low brow? Not a bit! This is a company of such originality that they have been featured in the national edition of the New York Times. In four years, they have produced an impressive total of over 200 original short and full-length plays. Artistic director Rob Ready studied theatre at no less an institution than New York University, one of the premiere theatrical schools nationwide. In addition to co-founding PianoFight, Ready works full time for the Oberlin Dance Collective, one of the most respected cultural institutions in the Bay area.

PianoFight currently has plans to open what Executive Director Dan Williams has called “the holy grail of theatre hubs” to include a theatre, bar and restaurant at the site of the famous Original Joe’s in the middle of the tenderloin. Williams has announced that the company is on track for consideration to receive money from the Cultural District Loan Fund (CDLF) administered by the city. The CDLF is a HUD-backed loan fund with a primary emphasis on financing businesses and development projects that will enhance the area’s cultural arts and entertainment functions. Recently, PianoFight successfully completed the highly competitive process to obtain pre-application approval.

This weekend, PianoFight will open another one of its unusual experiments: the “Triple Threat”. This project takes the unusual approach of opening three shows simultaneously, to be performed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. On Thursday nights, comedy troupe Mission CTRL takes the stage. Friday nights will feature This American Lie presented by the popular female-driven sketch comedy and variety troupe, Foreplay. Rounding out the trio on Saturday nights is an original drama by Scott Herman, Octopus’s Garden, about a lesbian couple exploring their options as they try to start a family.

The productions of the “triple threat” will continue each weekend through April 28. For further information, click here.

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*PianoFight is a TheatreStorm sponsor. For further information on TheatreStorm sponsorship, click here.

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