A formerly homeless photographer. The bartender from Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a local drag bar. A retired Tenderloin police captain. A Cambodian refugee and juvenile delinquent-turned-youth counselor. These are just some of the many characters inhabiting the new play “Tenderloin,” at Cutting Ball Theater. The piece uses documentary-style techniques to take the pulse of the complex and gritty neighborhood. We meet the director and some of the cast.

Annie Elias, director of "Tenderloin" and chair of the Performing Arts Department at Marin Academy
Mark Ellinger, local historian, essayist, photographer and Tenderloin resident played by actor David Sinaiko in "Tenderloin"
Tristan Cunningham, actor appearing in "Tenderloin"
David Sinaiko, actor appearing in "Tenderloin"

  • Tenderlion

    There’s not an issue of pulling the blinds over the Tenderloin’s problems.  San Francisco loves the TL’s problems: it gives the rest of the city a voyeuristic thrill and conversation fodder over artisan, locally crafted olive oil tastings.  What is an issue is revealing the secret, hidden Tenderloin, the children, the seniors, the working poor struggling to survive.  It’s not all about the line outside of Glide, the condition of which, by the way, is highly disrespectful to poor people – the ones waiting on line, the ones living trapped upstairs above the line, in fact, poor people everywhere who need a measure of dignity in addition to soup and a sandwich.  

    Yeah I live here.  And I have a front row view of how the city has its heel planted firmly on the throat of this community.  But then the architects of all this go home to their olive oil, and the rest of us are left here.

    • Guest

       ‘What is an issue is revealing the secret, hidden Tenderloin, the
      children, the seniors, the working poor struggling to survive.”

      Thank you, Tenderloin, for saying this. The show tries very hard to explore both the ultra-visible downtrodden of the area, AND the ‘hidden Tenderloin’ that you refer to.

      Ironically, though the play has been very well received critically, one  qualification some critics have had has been that the play gives too much emphasis to the positive aspects of the community – it’s people and places. It is as though they can’t believe that someone could have an authentically positive view or experience of such a place.

      You and all of the residents who have participated in, and reacted to the play prove that it is actually that view, one which strives for a facile, voyeuristic authenticity, that is the shallower one.

  • Brian Glenn Bryson

    was so moved and inspired by Annie’s documentary theatre work that I
    started a nonprofit theatre company in Sonoma County called Walking Elephant Theatre Company
    that works exclusively with kids (7 to 17 years old) creating original
    documentary theatre.  We have been so successful in the Bay Area, we
    took our last show “Prop 8 Love Stories” to New York City for a two-week Off Broadway run.
    People who voted “Yes” on Proposition 8 said they saw the show and changed their mind.

    Thank you, Annie! In these plays humanity blossoms on stage and opens people’s hearts and minds like nothing else.

    ~Brian Glenn Bryson

  • Carnivoyeur

    I have lived and worked in the TL for almost 20 years. This production sounds amazing. It’s unfortunate that the ticket price ($25-$30) will exclude most neighborhood residents from going to see it.

    • Cutting Ball Artist


      The Cutting Ball Theater is offering free and subsidized  tickets for residents of the neighborhood!

      Contact them at: for information.

      We very much want you to be able to come to the show!

    • The Cutting Ball Theater

      Please see our comment regarding neighborhood tickets. We held a special fundraising campaign to make this production accessible for everyone in the neighborhood. More information at:

  • Drivereturn

    I lived in the Tenderloin, at Turk and Hyde, during 2007 while I was an art student.  I remember the morning hosing down of the sidewalks.  Parents, grandparents, and family walking their children to school in morning, I think because they wouldn’t let them go alone.  Fenced-in and rooftop playgrounds, Sidewalk flea markets.  Scuffles between police officers and belligerent people, at least one shooting on my block.  I felt that I was safe as long as I was alert and followed common sense.  Looking back, it wasn’t that bad…but I will admit that sometimes walking past the homelessness and drug problems on a daily basis could be a bit depressing.

  • The Cutting Ball Theater

    The Cutting Ball Theater is offering neighborhood “Pay What You Can” tickets to this production. Residents of the Tenderloin are encouraged to show up to the performance 30 minutes in advance to request a neighborhood ticket. More information can be found at:

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