PianoFight expands to Oakland and takes over The Flight Deck theater


Despite continued uncertainty over the return of theatrical performances, the Tenderloin’s Piano Wrestling don’t let the pandemic slow it down.

Instead, it is expansion in Oakland, taking over the neighboring theater the Flight Deck (1540 Broadway, between 15th and 16th streets).

The deal has been underway since November, when the Flight Deck announced it was relinquishing its lease. Fearing that Oakland’s only black box theater would be gutted and turned into a co-working space for startups, PianoFight took action, seeking funding from local foundations.

Co-founder Dan Williams said the Rainin, Hewlett and Zellerbach Foundations will contribute $ 100,000 to ensure “the theater remains a theater.”

“Nobody wants [the alternative]”said co-founder and artistic director Rob Ready.” Not even startups. “

The interior of the Flight Deck, soon to be PianoFight Oakland. | Photo: The cockpit /Bark

PianoFight occupied its Tenderloin space, with an on-site bar and restaurant, a cabaret stage and two black box theaters, since 2014.

Before the pandemic, it hosted a diverse collection of acts, from stand-up comedians to groups and improv groups. It was also entangled in the Tenderloin community, offering its spaces to Code Tenderloin and other local organizations during the day.

At the moment, the location of Tenderloin is rely on crowdfunding to succeed. He raised $ 55,000 from the community and secured both payroll protection program loans and economic disaster loans to help keep the business afloat.

Ready says the attraction of the Oakland expansion is its “badass artist community, already there, that makes it work.”

PianoFight’s house group, the Californicorns, have been performing in an Oakland studio since 2009, and the theater regularly collaborates with teams of independent artists in East Bay, such as Hoodslam and Tourette’s without Regrets.

The theater also plans to retain the employees of the former tenant of The Flight Deck, Set of tattered wings, to help support operations and planning.

“We love Oakland,” Ready said. “It’s full of great artists that we’re now going to be able to work with on a much deeper level.”

PianoFight has been operating at 144 Taylor Street since 2014. | Image: Kevin Y. /Bark

With a stage, risers and lighting already built, the space won’t need a lot of work, Williams said. All it takes is a few small cosmetic changes, including new signage and a fresh coat of paint in the lobby.

Since no theater can open until San Francisco and Alameda counties give the green light for in-person events, PianoFight turns to the virtual sphere. He will be hosting his own digital streaming event in early fall and hopes to help other Bay Area artists “get their work safely online as soon as possible,” Ready said.

In the meantime, fans can stay engaged through the theater’s social media feeds, which include a live events schedule, subscribe to its email newsletter, or offer financial support via Patreon Where Pay Pal.

“Or just send us nice emails with compliments – we love them too,” Ready said.


About Lillian Coomer

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