Castro Online Logo

SF Mime Troupe Bemoans Bushwhacking
Benjamin Holmann
September, 2004

The San Francisco Mime Troupe’s 45th season of offering subversively hilarious and free theater in the park promises to be a headline-generating affair. In no small part to the storyline involving one town’s sole newspaper being bushwhacked into promoting fear-based propaganda by profiteers with an entirely over-hyped war against terror. A bit scary at times but "Showdown at Crawford Gulch" with its tongue-in-cheek humor and over-the-top musical numbers performed with an incredible in-house band is a refreshing burst of hopeful entertainment perfect for the whole family. In fact, thousands have made going to the Mime Troupe’s annual tour a new family tradition.

From the outset, the larger than life characters deliver a slice of timeless humanity against a backdrop of American history. Texas in the 1880’s was cattle driving country — where traditional cowboys pushed cattle herds from Texas to the Bay Area and throughout the Midwest for huge profit. The future, however, was in railroads and eager speculators from the East Coast & Great Britain bought range rights and pushed for the extension of railroads throughout the state and barbed wire & windmills helped establish Texas as ranch country. It’s a perfect setting for the Mime Troupe’s farcical spaghetti western musical.

Enter 1886’s Crawford Gulch, a small tumbleweed town in the path of profit for capitalist Cyrus T. Bogspavin who becomes wealthy through exploiting the land, the Mayor and the town’s newspaper, the Crawford Gulch Gazette. His cunning plan was to play on the fears of the townsfolk about the Comanche Indians. The Comanche Indians had a reputation for stealing property including women & children then trading or selling all they had gathered. However the Comanche didn’t do anything to Crawford Gulch although a conveniently timed Indian with great dental work did seem to be attacking the editor of the Crawford Gulch Gazette, Constance Adams. She was new in town but didn’t believe that "war was no time for thinking!"

Increased security threats, in turn fueled by wild stories of unseen terror, results in the Office of Home Range Security being formed to combat "arrows of mass destruction". In turn, the bank is overrun with the bamboozled owner and town mayor foreclosing to help fund the government’s "brave troops" fighting "godless savages". He paints loan defaulters, and coincidentally - good reporters, as helping the enemy and as flag-splitting traitors.

One casualty of the over-hyped and publicly funded "war" against terror is the Crawford Gulch Gazette. Editor Constance Adams, who was taught, "printing lies is easy, printing the truth takes courage", is the first black lady editor in the state but now the bank owner edits the news. Even she realizes that "nobody will believe that whole war on terror could be made up". She turns to the rest of the community for help and support.

The town sheriff, Frank Canem, has an unfortunate case of low blood sugar while trying to fight skeletons in his closet. The town madam, Bitsy La Toi, arrived with "an old brass bed, some torn fishnets & a dream" but also had bank loans. The other townsfolk also have questioned whether all the security was worth it but you’ll have to see the show yourself to see what happens.

From their website (, the San Francisco Mime Troupe are "satirists, seeking to make you laugh at the absurdities of contemporary life and at the same time, see their causes. We've done shows about most of the burning issues of our time, generally shows that debunked the official story. We perform everywhere from public parks to palaces of culture, aiming to reach the broadest possible audience. "The San Francisco Mime Troupe creates and produces socially relevant theater of the highest professional quality, staging plays that dramatize the operation of giant forces in small, close up stories that convey the impact of political events on personal life."

The San Francisco Mime Troupe scored another home run with getting many points across — including the lessons of intentional community, and doing it all in style, for free in a public park. The characters are ourselves embodied by different members of our social classes intertwined in class struggles tied to land and power. The entire lesson is set to music and performed distinctively and with undercurrents of blue and "leftist, commie" humor. The sets, props and costumes are always a treat and they do a show so well it’s easy to see why thousands over the years have embraced them.

The San Francisco Mime Troupe’s "original fable about lies, greed, and dirty double-crossing in a dusty old Texas town" - Showdown at Crawford Gulch plays live around the Bay Area and Northern California throughout the summer — homespun and quirky live music warm up the audience before every show. Be sure to pack foodies, extra water, and blankets to sit on with your family & friends and sunscreen. The show is free but donations obviously go a long way — write a check and take it with you. Full details and enticing SFMT merchandise can be found at or call (415) 285-1717.

View Original Article

Back to the Show Archive Page