San Francisco

Society Cabaret finds semi-permanent home at Harvey Milk Center For the Recreational Arts

Popular cabaret performance series Society Cabaret has found a new home: the Harvey Milk Center For The Recreational Arts, where it will host performances beginning February 1.

Society Cabaret previously operated inside the Hotel Rex at Union Square, but was forced to move when the hotel closed to be renovated and rebranded as the Hotel Emblem.

While the group hunted for a new venue, it continued to offer its programming through pop-ups at the Sunset's Sip Tea Room. But its new partnership with the Milk Center will give it a more solid home through at least the end of 2019, co-owner Tim Heitman tells Hoodline. 

The exterior of the Harvey Milk Center For Recreational Arts. I Photo: Christopher Nelson

The partnership came about when Scott Lacey, Society Cabaret's entertainment director, worked with Milk Center director Nicola Bosco-Alvarez on a show at another venue. When Lacey found out that the Milk Center had time available, the pair realized that Society Cabaret would be a good match for the center's programming.

All four partners in Society Cabaret have backgrounds in theater, and are excited to work with a more theater-oriented space than they had at Sip or the Hotel Rex.

"The room [at the Milk Center] is very different from what we had at the Hotel Rex," Heitman said. "It's a very large dance studio space ... We have to literally load our show in there, bring in the tables and bring in the lights. Otherwise, it's a big empty space with a bunch of mirrors on the side."

Heitman said the group is still in the process of working out the details of their financial deal with the Milk Center. They don't yet know if they'll be paying rent to the space, or turning over a percentage of their ticket sales. But either way, they're optimistic that their fan base will join them in the new venue.

"We have a good, strong email list of all the people who've ever come to see our shows, and we're keeping them informed," Heitman said, adding that the group hopes to do some additional digital marketing once they've gotten the space updated to their liking. 

For example, they're eventually hoping to offer a full food and beverage selection, as they did at the Hotel Rex, but they still need to figure out the details. 

"Our first weekend is coming up, so we have a lot of kinks to work out," Heitman said. "It's going to take a while to build up the business again."

Tim Heitman (left) with business partners Christopher Nelson and Paula Heitman. I Photo: David-Elijah Nahmod/Hoodline

In the meantime, Society Cabaret is focused on staging its latest crop of shows, including Sarah Szeibel's "Master of Mess," a musical journey through the ins and outs of formal music education, and husband-and-wife team Lauren Mayer and Scott Grinthal's "Yes, Dear," which focuses on humorous songs about love and marriage.

Society Cabaret will also continue its practice of offering classes to fledgling performers, on topics from how to put a show together to how to market one. And the group is looking into opportunities to support writers and composers in staging original works. 

If you're interested in seeing Society Cabaret in its new venue, drop by tomorrow, Friday, February 1, for the Curtain Call series, an open mic for people who want to give performing a try. After that, shows will run every other weekend, starting at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30-50 and may be purchased at the Society Cabaret website.   

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