Election Section

‘Showdown’ Unfolds at Cedar Rose Park

Friday July 09, 2004

The venerable San Francisco Mime Troupe brings its newest offering to Berkeley this weekend, with two free performances of its (George W.) Bush League Spaghetti Western, Showdown at Crawford Gulch. 

The performances at Cedar Rose Park, 1330 Rose St., begin with live music at 1:30 both afternoons, with the main Showdown starting at 2 o’clock. 

Mime Troupe performer and playwright Michael T. Sullivan says “Showdown at Crawford Gulch takes a look at the not-too-distant past to see how xenophobia, greed and images of bloodthirsty terror were used to ‘tame’ another desert land—and how those tools are just as powerful today.” 

Set in 1886, the drama unfolds in the mythical Crawford Gulch, Texas, in a county where only the town and the nearby domain of the Comanche lie outside the grasp of Eastern robber baron Cyrus T. Bogspavin. 

Armed with an agenda of his own, Bogspavin whips the townsfolk into a frenzy of fear, evoking images of bloodthirsty savages armed with AMD (Arrows of Mass Destruction). 

“What in tarnation could it be about this out-of-the-way piece of land that caught the eye of a wealthy man like Bogspavin?” muses Sullivan. “What could be on it? Or is it something under it?” 

For security, the fearful townsfolk turn to Mayor Canem, a man who came to office through a dubious election. But all doubts vanish in fear of the Comanche, and the fight which the Mayor and his heroic Sheriff vow to lead, helped in part by their Home Range Security program. 

But still, some of the townsfolk are wondering if they’re being given a little too much security—and thereby hangs a tale. 

Accompanying Sullivan’s scripts are the troupe’s trademark vocals, featuring tunes by musical director Jason Sherbundy and lyrics by Bruce Barthol. 

Directed by Keiki Shimosato, the show stars Velina Brown, Michael Carreiro, Amos Glick, Ed Holmes, Lisa Hori-Garcia, and Victor Toman. 

The Mime Troupe plans two more Showdown weekends in Berkeley: Aug. 14 and 15 at Live Oak Park and Aug. 28 and 29 at Willard Park, though the troupe also refers to Willard by the name it bore a few decades back, Ho Chi Minh Park. 

The San Francisco Mime Troupe and its sharp-edged satires have been a staple of the Bay Area since the group’s inception 45 years ago. 

Banned in 1963 from performing in San Francisco parks, founder R.G. Davis pressed ahead, earning himself both an arrest and the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

A victory in the courts led to an unbroken four-decade tradition of free public performances. 

In 1970, the troupe became an artist-run collective and began premiering at least one new and wholly original offering every year. 

Along the way they have been honored with Obies, starting with a 1968 award for “uniting theater and grooving in the parks,” a Tony for excellence in regional theater, and numerous local honors. 

While Showdown premiered last weekend in San Francisco’s Dolores Park and will play in parks throughout the Bay Area, the troupe will tour throughout Central and Northern California, wrapping up with a final performance at the Progressives Fair in Petaluma’s Walnut Park on Sept. 26. 

Their wide-ranging travels have been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of San Francisco Grants for the Arts, by the Zellerbach Family Fund, the San Francisco Foundation, and the James Irvine, Bernard Osher, William and Flora Hewitt and W.A. Gerbode foundations. 

For more information, see the Mime Troupe’s website at www.sfmt.org.