Best of the Bay 2009: Local Heroes
Our celebration of Bay Area people and organizations who strive to make a difference

Written by Guardian Staff Writers
January 4th 2010


The San Francisco Mime Troupe is the conscience of the city, our proudest export, and as it celebrates its 50th year perhaps our most enduring sociopolitical institution. That's a lot of kudos to heap on an artists' collective, particularly one that delivers its theatrical social satire with such over-the-top comedy and music, but it isn't a statement that we make lightly.

The SFMT embodies the very best San Francisco values limitless creativity, a hunger for justice, courage under fire, an uncompromising commitment to creating a better world, and a progressive missionary zeal and offers a powerful and entertaining reminder of those values every July 4, when it presents its new show in Dolores Park.

After it sings (and preaches) to the progressive choir of San Francisco, the troupe hits the road, visiting such less-than-enlightened outposts as the Central Valley and rural Northern California, delivering important messages to audiences that need to hear them most. "First of all, it's humorous, so that breaks down a lot of barriers from the get-go," SFMT general manager Jenee Gill tells us.

But even here in the early '60s, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission tried to use obscenity laws to ban the SFMT from performing in public parks. The troupe successfully fought the commission in court, setting an important free speech precedent. Modern San Francisco has grown up with the SFMT showing us the way forward with its uniquely high-stepping, knee-slapping, consciousness-raising style, and we're a better city for it. (Steven T. Jones)

All local heroes photos by Pat Mazzera

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