Ahh, I see you made it back. Can you do the drumroll? Hands on thighs are fine. Here are the remaining Top 5 of PianoFight in 2011.
Many New Film Projects: Ketheron’s, Low Shoulders, SideReel, mBarrier and MORE
Rounding out the Top 5 of 2011 at PianoFight, we’re really getting into the fun stuff. Off-Market is closed, the company is safe, we’re all still raging… let’s make some funny shit, right? Well 2011 saw PianoFight’s funny shit hit the fan and get sent to some interesting new places thanks to the proliferation of PianoFight’s involvement in film projects. To start, the transgender musical sketch that Nicole Hammersla wrote for MNF’s April show, Ketheron’s Bucket Mending and Hymen Emporium, got turned into a transgender musical short film with the help of Scary Cow Productions and their Anton H. Gill. It even went on to win several big awards at Scary Cow’s own film festival, held at Castro Theater in November, and will show at several other festivals around the world next year. Enjoy the fruits of PianoFight, Australia! The ladies of MNF were also courted by RoofTop Comedy to make some comedic shorts for Benefit Cosmetics, proving that makeup isn’t just tons of fun (which it is), it’s also funny! Hooray marketing! Us dudes at Mission CTRL have kept plenty busy off stage in 2011 as well, filming several original shorts, starting an all-out Sketch War with Killing My Lobster, crashing the Super Bowl and even inking a deal with SideReel.com to create original comedic shorts that make fun of TV shows. We’ve already stirred up the nest of YouTube trolls with our first handful of videos and will courageously continue to do so into the new year. Returning to home base, PianoFight’s first feature film, Evan Winchester’s Low Shoulders, held a successful Kickstarter campaign this year raising over $5000 and adding a badass car camera rig to the PF inventory. Even better, director Elijah Wolfson wrapped filming at the end of summer and the film’s premier is anticipated in the first half of 2012. Finally, perhaps the greatest addition to the PianoFight filmmaking arsenal in 2011 was the arrival of the Burke Brothers, Daniel and David, from Santa Barbara and into our hearts (and the Tenderloin). Their adept filmmaking skills and PianoFighter approach to entertainment has been invaluable in helping us with everything from promo videos and battle sketches to cosmetics shorts and Doritos ads. Overall, a lot of great moments on the film front in 2011 as we bravely marched into the wily world of webtertainment and its jungle of links. Translating the fun of our live shows into static screens will continue to be a huge goal in 2012. Hashtag crosspost amirite?
It seemed crazy and right up our alley from the start. A show of one-acts, written for the outdoors, taking place an hour outside the city we call home. How would we light it? What if it rained? How will outdoor theater translate? Would anybody show up? Rather than demand answers, a noble crew of producers took a long-whispered idea, secured a location and just kept saying “Yes.” And thank G(T)od (and Heidi!) they did, because Roughin’ It, our night of theater, oysters and booze at Tomales Bay Oyster Company, was a truly wild success. With nearly 200 people in attendance more than 60 miles from our old theater, a half-dozen one-acts that might have never been able to breathe on stage absolutely gusted (but didn’t blow!) in the cool evening air of Tomales Bay. Another PianoFight success story rooted in leaving some elements up to chance, the evening tapped into what is so great about live theater in an epicly dramatic fashion. Whether it was the raw oysters and cold local beer in hand, the on-site t-shirt screen printing, characters tip-toeing through muddy shallows and hanging from live branches, or starting a scene in a real truck’s cloud of real, dirty dust, Roughin’ It was possibly PianoFight’s most ‘Live’ moment of 2011. And since it went so smoothly, it was one of the most fun as well.
For a year packed with so much transition (see 8), newness (see 5-9) and, yes, homelessness (see 4) it should be somewhat surprising that 2011 also managed to be an exceptional year for three standby productions that helped make PianoFight what it was in the Off-Market days. To start with the conspicuous absence here, there was no ShortLived this year. It’s a wonderful, behemoth play-writing competition that we will likely only produce in our own space. All in due time. That said, Monday Night Foreplays had not one, but two of its longest, best-attended runs to date at The Dark Room on Mission, with more jizz jokes per minute than any comedy a man ever made. Mission CTRL teamed up with Crisis Hopkins to make PanderFest, a comedy show that provided people with things they didn’t even know they needed and was the opening run at the wonderful StageWerx 446 on Valencia. And finally, to close the year, Forking II: A Merry Forking! Christmas sold more tickets than ANY PianoFight show before it, a testament to both the improved quality of the production on all ends and to PianoFight’s rising status in the SF entertainment community. Each of these three shows matured in different ways this year, clearing the way for bigger opportunities in 2012, including a full-length from Mission CTRL. On a personal note, as someone who took part in each of these productions, 2011 reminded me that the creative minds behind them are sharper than ever and have really only begun to yield what they are capable of. Keep coming watch us make funny!
In the absence of a home space, 2011 forced us to prove that our entertainment is portable. I mean we dragged our fans out to the boonies for some theater (albeit in leather clad Google buses). But could we leave our loyal fans altogether and make new ones in the notoriously culturally bankrupt settlements of Southern California? Could we contend with a balmy Memorial Day weekend and get the sun-loving beautiful people to pile into a dark theater to laugh at some fog-spawned theater kids? Sure. We’re PianoFight and we only know one way to address doubt: blind optimism. Well, not completely blind. Through various connections held in Oakland, Santa Barbara, San Diego and, of course, Los Angeles (whattup, PFLA?!), we managed to put together a string of shows that not only allowed us to cruise the California coast in style but were actually smoothly produced and well-attended even by home turf standards. We sold out Oakland and San Diego, serving up one hell of a night of dinner theater in the former, and upwards of 100 people came out in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. It wasn’t The Lion King, but considering it was our first time in some of those cities, what crazy fun it ended up being (looking at you, Netheryonder!), and all the great people we connected with along the way (like our parents!), the Endless Weekend Tour was a big success and an undeniable standout for PianoFight as a whole in 2011. We even got to reunite with Jeremy and Nina, our PFLA brethren. The spirit evoked by that weekend did in fact become endless, living on in all who were lucky enough to take part in the madness, even as most of us are now, sadly, once again shrouded in fog. We’ll be back soon, SoCal!
Signing the Lease at Original Joe’s
The great lengths PianoFight went to in 2011 to continue expanding in spite of its homelessness were impressive by all accounts. It almost seems like we don’t even need a home base to thrive. But the successes on this year-end list, created by dozens and enjoyed by thousands, were all kept afloat by the knowledge that we weren’t just spinning our wheels with new shows in different venues; we were working toward something bigger. We were keeping PianoFight alive with the hope that one day it would take on a life of its own, bigger than anything we were able to make happen this year. That hope, supported by the bold, relentless work of Rob, Dan and Kevin Fink, manifested into something greater this October, when PianoFight signed the lease to 144 Taylor. So spread the word: PianoFight is here to stay. There’s still a long road ahead before we legally serve our first drink or premier our first show at the old Original Joe’s space. But we will do both those things one day and so much more thanks to the incredible work done this year. The plans are drawn, the people are committed and the community is behind us. Now we just have to court some 1%’ers into investing in a well-planned dream that seeks to entertain everyone in San Francisco for decades to come. Cakewalk right? The next few years will undoubtedly be more demanding and more trying than we can fully fathom at this point, but with a fresh lease in hand and a thriving creative company in tow, this year end marks an apt time to stop for a moment, look back and say: “He11 yeah.”
Posted January 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm