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San Francisco by Richard Connema & Reed Brown


San Francisco is a Great Theatre Town

San Francisco Regional Theater has been growing by leaps and bounds over these past few years. I would venture to say that our city by the bay is one of the great regional theater sites in the United States. We now have six major professional theaters producing plays from Broadway, off Broadway and London. We also have world premier plays that go to the other cities in this country and the UK. The theaters have a wealth of talent to pick from including actors from New York, Los Angeles and our own Bay Area. Some of the actors from New York like coming out here to appear in the play because the audiences are very receptive to their work. They feel Bay Area audiences go to see a play and not just to go to a theater. The regional companies have a strong subscription bases and they can afford the best talent and direction. The American Conservatory Theatre is the leading theater in our area and they present only top grade plays with excellent actors. In the East Bay, Berkeley Rep is the prime theater for new and revival productions. They will soon open their new 600 seat state of the art theater as there second theater.

The South Bay has three great professional theaters that are presenting good proficient productions. San Jose Rep, AMT and Theatre Works are prestigious theaters with strong subscription bases. The East Bay has the up and coming Willows Theatre that has made gigantic strides during the past few years in presenting classic American productions of the past. Here in the city the well known Magic Theater presents avant guard plays with great cast. Pride and Rhino Theater are first class theaters catering to the gay population of the city. 42nd Street Moon presents outstanding lost musicals in their new theater, the Eureka.

In the North Bay, the world famous Marin Players present extraordinary productions that fit all tastes. They premiered an unknown Tennessee William’s play last season.

Best of Broadway brings us the best touring productions year round in their three theaters, the Curran, the Golden Gate and the Orphium. Also, good productions are produced year round at the Theatre on the Square and Marines Memorial. There are other smaller theater groups doing superior presentations to lovers of the theater..

Now, you might ask, who am I? I am a dyed in the wool theater aficionado whose first musical was Lady in the Dark, starring Gertrude Lawrence. This turned me on to musicals and then non musical productions. Over the years I have seen practically every Broadway star trod the boards from the Lunts, Lynn Fontaine, Helen Hayes to musical stars Ethel Merman, Judy Holiday, Barbara Streisand, Robert Preston, etc. etc. ... I would guess since 1942 I have seen over 2000 productions. My field or work, however, has been films. I have been the film business for over 50 years. I started out in photography. I was trained as a combat photographer during World War II and I served in the Pacific Theater. I photographed the invasion of the Philippines, the battle for Manila, and surrender of the Japanese. I photographed the Flying Tigers in the south of China. I also did some films for the US Air Force after the war.

I had a close friend who had been a cameraman at Republic Studios before being drafted. He got me a job in the cinematography department after I was discharged. I worked as an apprentice cameraman and an assistant on Republic films. I was able to work with John Ford and the great Orson Wells at that studio.

I went to Warner Bros. as an ass’t cameraman and worked on many films including the musicals “Music Man”, “Gypsy”, and “Mame”. During that period I went over to Paramount when Warners was slack. I bounced back and forth for several years between these studios. I went into publicity which I preferred over cinematography. I made many friends in the film colony and I became close to some of those actors who came from the Broadway stage. However, during that time, my first love was always live theater. I was able to see a lot of theater since I worked on some films made in New York. I also was involved with Hitchcock and I went with him to London where he made several films. Following that period I made annual trips to the UK to see West End and RSC Theatre. I also joined a British consortium which invests in British productions. I made some and lost some money on these ventures.

Now I am semi retired. I sometimes work as a point man on films being made up here in SF. “Bicentennial Man” and the upcoming “Pearl Harbor” are the most recent major films I work on.


- Richard Connema



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