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Arts & Entertainment

Popular venue to close two Bay Area locations

Bartender Dave Levine serves Angelica Dongallo at PianoFight in San Francisco on Aug. 19, 2015. | Carlos Avila Gonzalez/SF Chronicle via Getty

Citing ongoing pandemic pressures, the local performing arts venue PianoFight announced it would close its SF and Oakland locations in March. Known for its quirky and affordable stage productions, both PianoFight locations—one in San Francisco's Theater District and another in Downtown Oakland—will shutter on March 18.

In a prepared written statement, operations director Duncan Wold said that the theater never fully recovered after Covid, ultimately rendering its operations unsustainable.

“There’s been a massive restructuring of people's lives: where they live, their habits, how often they go out, but those Bay Area expenses just keep going up,” Wold said in the PianoFight statement. 

When Covid forced the theater to shut down in 2020, PianoFight's community rallied together to raise $100,000 to keep the organization afloat, but according to the staff, it wasn't enough. After Bay Area theaters began reopening, increased operating costs and diminished attendance forced PianoFight's hand.

Executive Director Dan Williams added that PianoFight has always taken an inclusive approach to programming—hosting comedy, magic, burlesque, video game tournaments, podcasts and drag shows.

“We said yes to everything because we could, we wanted to and it was more fun than saying no,” Williams said in the official PianoFight statement.

The exterior of PianoFight at 144 Taylor St. in San Francisco | Google Street View

With two months of shows remaining, PianoFight is still scheduled to host SF Sketchfest events, as well as performances by the SF Neo-Futurists and Leela Improv.

Founded in 2007 when two local artists came together to self-produce an original play, PianoFight has become a hub for local performing artists, housing four stages, rehearsal studios, an art gallery and a restaurant and bar. PianoFight SF first opened in 2014, and the team added a second outpost in the East Bay in May 2020.

During the day, PianoFight Oakland provides classroom and performance space for middle and high school students from Oakland School for the Arts. In the evenings, artists like Oakland's Poet Laureate of 2022 Dr. Ayodele Nzinga and the Formerly Incarcerated People’s Performance Project often performed on PianoFight's stages.

Artistic director Rob Ready expressed his gratitude for PianoFight's tenure in the Bay Area. "A generation of artists and audiences have made their way through our doors and woven their way into the cultural fabric of San Francisco.” he wrote. “We feel very fortunate. This has been the experience of a lifetime."