San Francisco Performing Arts

Sophisticated, offbeat, and often ahead of the curve, San Francisco's performing arts scene supports world-class opera, ballet, and theater productions, along with alternative-dance events, avant-garde plays, groundbreaking documentaries, and a slew of spoken-word and other literary happenings.

The heart of the mainstream theater district lies on or near Geary Street, mostly west of Union

Square, though touring Broadway shows land a little farther afield at big houses like the Orpheum and Golden Gate. But theater can be found all over town. For a bit of culture shock, slip out to eclectic districts like the Mission or Haight, where smaller theater companies reside and short-run and one-night-only performances happen on a regular basis.

The city's opera house and symphony hall present the musical classics, and venues like the Fillmore and the Warfield host major rock and jazz talents, but the city's extensive festival circuit broadens the possibilities considerably. Stern Grove is the nation’s oldest summer music festival that remains free still to this day; Noise Pop is the premier alt-rock showcase putting such acts like Modest Mouse on the map; and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a beloved celebration of bluegrass, country, and roots music, attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees from all over the nation every year.

The range of offerings is just as eclectic on the film front. San Francisco moviegoers love blockbuster hits like everyone else, but they also champion little-known indie and art-house flicks and flock to the interactive sing-along musicals presented at Castro Theatre. Nearly every month an important film festival takes place. During warmer months, many of the city’s parks host free movie nights outdoors showcasing film classics or pop-culture favorites.

San Francisco also has a rich dance scene, from classical dancers to jugglers. And it doesn't take stadium seating to make a performance space. Cafés, clubs, and bookstores often host poetry readings or author lectures.

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San Francisco Performing Arts

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42nd Street Moon

This group produces delightful "semistaged" concert performances of rare chestnuts from Broadway's golden age of musical theater, such...

Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Since 1982 this company has been staging the fluid and gorgeous ballets of choreographer and founder Alonzo King, sometimes in collaboration...

American Conservatory Theater

One of the nation's leading regional theater companies presents about eight plays a year, from classics to contemporary works, often...

American Indian Film Festival

Presented by the American Indian Film Institute, this event has been based in San Francisco since 1977. Each November the festival takes...

Balboa Theatre

This historic theater, which just celebrated its 88th birthday, features a combination of classic movies, second-run hits, local documentaries...

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

This Tony Award–winning group is the American Conservatory Theater's major rival for leadership among the region's resident professional...

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra

The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra rose to prominence under Kent Nagano's baton and continues to prosper with Joana Carneiro at the helm.

Cafe International

An open-mike session follows one or more featured readers here every Friday night at 8. Spoken-word performances are interspersed with...

Cal Performances

Held at various venues on the University of California–Berkeley campus from September through May, this popular series offers the Bay...

Castro Theatre

A large neon sign marks the exterior of this 1,400-plus seat art-deco movie palace whose exotic interior transports you back to 1922,...

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