San Francisco Mime Troupe
Founded by dancer and mime Ronny Davis in 1959, the company that began as an experimental project grew into an ensemble with a mission: to create and produce socially relevant theatre of the highest professional quality and to perform it before the broadest possible audience. "Socially relevant" became code for "contra-establishment," and the Troupe's early days, although replete with praiseworthy commedia dell'arte performances labeled borderline "obscene" by the less enlightened, were plagued by the need for money. Bill Graham, a "...very... Three-piece-suit... Organization man " at the time, was SFMT's manager and came up with the idea for a fundraiser to help pay the Troupe's court costs from a recent bust. The November 6, 1965 benefit, held at the Troupe's South-of-Market loft, featured John Handy, the Fugs, Jefferson Airplane, Sandy Bull and Lawrence Ferlingetti and was an over-the-top, sold-out, standing-room-only success. A second benefit, held at the more spacious Fillmore Auditorium on December 10, raised almost six thousand dollars and launched Bill Graham's career as an event promoter. SFMT and its radical reputation has endured; to this day the multiracial, multigenerational Troupe presents plays and musical theatre at its own venue and throughout California, offering educational outreach programs and holding workshops for aspiring playwrights and actors.
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