Teatro ZinZanni

Longstanding Spiegeltent show, displaced at least temporarily from its longtime home on a San Francisco pier, sets up for a few months in Southern California.
When: Through February 17, 2012
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, California
Tickets: Tickets start at $122.85. Go to or call 714-556-2787
Susan, Kevin, Heidi
Susan Outlaw, Kevin Kent and Heidi Echtenkamp goofing off for the camera after the show at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Sabine, Joachim
Sabine Maier and Joachim Mohr delight and amaze with their trapeze comedy performance at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Vita, Gregory
Vita Radionova and her amazing hula hoop act, with Gregory Marquet, at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Manuela and Mom Kitaoka
With heels, Manuela is 7 feet tall. My Mom is 5-foot-2. Manuela uses a whip for entertainment, Mom's a Kendo master. My money's on Mom!
At 100 of age, Madame
takes a 400-mile road trip
Teatro ZinZanni visits Costa Mesa, California
November 21, 2012

On December 31, 2011, Teatro ZinZanni San Francisco held its final show on Pier 29 in San Francisco.

After more than 11 years delighting San Francisco audiences with breathtaking aerial, juggling and contortion acts, combined with voices usually only associated with Heaven, Teatro ZinZanni had to make way for the 2012-13 America's Cup race. Judging by messages left on the company's Facebook page, it's apparent just how much fans of the historic 100-year-old Spiegeltent show miss the iconic theatre and its waterfront performers.

Tracy and I have had the distinct honor of covering several performances for Teatro ZinZanni, in both San Francisco and Seattle. Being a commercial performance photographer has advantages far beyond what most people see in final images.

Photography, for commercial or personal purposes, is a service, and a personal one at that. When Tracy and I shoot for a client we feel it is vital to get to know the people we are shooting, because in the end, we want a viewer to know them as we do, as friends and family. It was with great sadness when we attended Teatro ZinZanni's private, staff-only affair on the company's last night in San Francisco.

Norm Langill, founder of Teatro ZinZanni, traveled from his Seattle headquarters to thank each San Francisco staff member personally. The emotion that night, from the wait staff to management to talent, was absolutely palpable. A family was about to temporarily go separate ways, and more than 11 years of history brought forth many tears -- including our very own.

Although the original plan was to secure a site (done) and reopen the tent in 2012, several factors prevented that timetable from being met, due to many city hoops and public meetings held to resurrect the tent at its new location. Susan Outlaw, managing director of Teatro ZinZanni San Francisco, along with Heidi Echtenkamp, continue to tenaciously pursue and jump through the seemingly endless hoops to get Madame ZinZanni's tent and staff up and running again on the Embarcadero.

So what to do till their home is reestablished in San Francisco? Well, what any self-respecting Spiegeltent (Dutch for "Mirror tent") does, hit the road!

After all, the original design of the world famous Belgium tents was for travel. So, with much support from the Seattle office, Susan and Heidi scouted locations in California and found a fine setting on the campus of the stunning Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California. In a remarkable 23 days, the 100-year old gal was moved and erected in all her glory, presenting the new on the road show, "Love, Chaos & Dinner," to the absolute delight and critical acclaim of our neighbors in Southern California. In the tent, the Giants-Dodger rivalry is never discussed!

I'm from Southern California, and my family still resides in the area. So I decided that on the night we "scout" the show from our table, what would be better than to buy a ticket for my 86-year-old Mom, so she could watch the magic? How did she like it? Let's just say that Mom has the very first dollar she ever earned, and she is buying tickets to take my sister and niece to the show. 'Nuff said ...

When I mention Teatro ZinZanni is a family (and we consider them family!), I'm not just blowing sunshine. How many companies can say that wait staff moved from San Francisco to Costa Mesa to work together again? Yup, several of Teatro ZinZanni San Francisco's "family" moved just to be reunited. Henry Lee, Teatro ZinZanni San Francisco's iconic (never without his signature top hat) bartenders, greeted us just outside the catering entrance when we arrived. After long warm hugs were exchanged, it felt like we were all back home again.

Teatro ZinZanni uses talent that is both new and familiar. Because we've worked with so many of them, it felt like an early Thanksgiving. At 6-foot-4 in bare feet, Manuela loved posing next to my Mom after the show. Duffy and Chris, well, I'm certain that in some past life we were family. And what can I say about Susan and Heidi that isn't already obvious, they are family to us.

Without giving away too many secrets about the show, I will simply say that no matter how many times we've seen some of the performers, it's always fresh and entertaining. If you ever wonder why so many San Francisco locals have attended Teatro ZinZanni shows time and time again, well, there's a damn good reason. In a world of packaged entertainment, there are only a handful of "families" that are this outstanding, as well as authentic. The Southland public and theatre critics are beginning to discover what San Francisco has known for 11 years.

And Mom, please don't spend all of my inheritance on Teatro ZinZanni tickets!

Teatro ZinZanni
A night view from atop one of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts main stage theatres. Me dizzy? No, but you don't want to fall from where I was shooting! At Segerstrom Center for the Arts.


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