This winter, Collected Works mounts our production of Genet’s The Balcony at The Old Mint. The performance lights up the dark stone corridors, passageways, and inner chambers of one of San Francisco’s oldest buildings, The Old Mint.
Genet’s play tells the story of a revolutionary uprising in the streets of an unnamed city. While armed rebels fight to take control of the city’s power structures, most of the action takes place in an elite brothel or “house of illusions,” where clients act out their fantasies of institutional power: they play judges, bishops, and generals as their counterparts in the “real” world struggle to maintain their authority. The Balcony is a landmark in modern theatre: the eminent American critic Edmund White noted that, with The Balcony’s foregrounding of the role of illusion and meta-theatricality in creating contemporary power and desire, Genet invented modern theatre.
The dynamic interaction between Genet’s play and The Old Mint is powerful, and the time is ripe for a bold new production of The Balcony, particularly in San Francisco. Percolating cultural conflicts in San Francisco over who has access to the city and who gets to make its legacy remind us of the survival of The Old Mint through San Francisco’s turbulent history, both literally and figuratively. Currently, resurging actions on local, national, and global scales introduce the reality of high-stakes social protest to new generations, and activate memories of the Bay Area’s own important history in cultural and political upheaval. The Balcony speaks directly to these contemporary and historical energies.