Mime troupe takes on unemployment 

Out of work? You’re not alone. With factories closing and job moving overseas, many believe that unemployment is the most pressing problem in America today — which makes the subject a natural for the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s annual summer show, “Posibilidad.”

Subtitled “Death of the Worker,” the new comedy-musical opens this weekend in The City’s Dolores Park, with more free shows through Sept. 19 all around the Bay Area and beyond.

“Posibilidad” continues the Mime Troupe tradition of writing and staging original shows based on topical issues. Past productions by the Tony Award-winning company, now in its 51st season, have focused on themes such as election fraud, the banking crisis and genetically modified foods.

Written by Michael Gene Sullivan and Ellen Callas, and directed by Wilma Bonet, the new show — billed as “a modern tale of two factories, telenovelas and tango” — imagines what might happen when a group of workers in a small U.S. factory refuse to be “downsized.”

No one knows what to do when the factory owners announce that the workers are about to lose their jobs, back wages and retirement funds. Fate intervenes when a pregnant employee, feeling the onset of labor, sits down on the job. Her boss thinks she’s organizing a strike and calls security. Bonet says the situation quickly escalates. “You see the workers rebel,” she says, “and then they decide to take back the factory and run it themselves.”

Bonet, who directed last year’s Mime Troupe hit, “Too Big to Fail,” says that “Posibilidad” was inspired by recent events, including the 2008 shutdown of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago and a series of worker occupations of plants, including the Brookman Clothing Factory, in Argentina.

In a parallel plot, “Posibilidad” features an Argentine worker who steps forward to recount the story of a strike in his native country.

The cast features Mime Troupe veterans Sullivan, Velina Brown, Lisa Hori-Garcia and Brian M. Rivera; Rotimi Agbabiaka and Maggie Mason round out the cast.

Music director Pat Moran contributes a Latin score, with songs inspired by Mercedes Sosa, the Argentine singer and political activist who died last year. And Bonet says the actors are brushing up their tango skills.

“Posibilidad” couches serious themes in multiple layers of humor. But Bonet sees the show as more than mere entertainment. “It’s interesting that this show was being written when the Nummi plant (in Fremont) was shutting down,” says the director. “During rehearsals, we’ve been asking ‘what if the workers had taken it over?’ There are a lot of ‘what ifs,’ and maybe this play will help people see that.”


Posibilidad, or Death of the Worker

Presented by San Francisco Mime Troupe

When: Saturday through Sept. 19

Where: 2 p.m. Saturday-Monday at Dolores Park, 18th and Dolores streets, S.F.; weekends at various venues through Sept. 19

Tickets: Most shows are free

Contact: (415) 285-1717, www.sfmt.org

Note: More 2 p.m. San Francisco performances are in Glen Park, July 10; Golden Gate Park’s Peacock Meadow, July 11, Washington Square Park, Aug. 21; Yerba Buena Gardens, Aug. 22.; and Dolores Park, Sept. 4-6.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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