Teatro ZinZanni Planning Return to Waterfront

A cultural attraction that left San Francisco nearly three years ago because of the America’s Cup yacht race may be reopening soon along the city’s waterfront.

Teatro ZinZanni, a dinner theatre and circus formerly housed at Piers 27-29, was one of about 80 tenants forced to move from San Francisco’s waterfront when the city was chosen to host the 2013 America’s Cup regatta and a new cruise ship terminal was tabbed for the site.

The company had planned to move to the foot of Broadway at The Embarcadero in 2012, but financing the new endeavor proved infeasible without incorporating more revenue sources into the development.

Teatro ZinZanni plans to do that at its currently proposed site, Seawall Lot 324, by incorporating a hotel, artists’ residence and cafĂ© with the construction of the theatre.

On Tuesday, Teatro ZinZanni founder Norman Langill told the San Francisco Port Commission his company is working with a developer to bring Teatro ZinZanni’s “magical mirrored” tent back to San Francisco.

The tent, which has been in storage in Seattle, is one of only a few that has survived in near-perfect condition currently, according to Michelle Sanders Leyva, a spokeswoman for the company.

Specifically called a spiegeltent or antique cabaret tent, it survived World War II buried underground. Teatro ZinZanni’s spiegeltent, named the Palais Nostalgique, was constructed in 1910, with one family owning it ever since.

The Palais Nostalgique consists of crystal, mirrors and interior columns that are hand-carved and contain stained glass. Teatro ZinZanni’s dinner show takes place throughout its theatre, which can seat up to 285 guests.

A glass-walled gazebo would house the theatre, with backstage hallways visible to pedestrians strolling The Embarcadero, according to the company.

“Re-opening in our new home, Teatro ZinZanni will continue to honor San Francisco’s unique theatrical history of live, zany, funny and beautiful variete (vaudeville) theatre,” Langill said.

Tuesday’s meeting before the Port Commission was informational only, said port spokeswoman Renee Dunn-Martin.

Before the company can re-open, it will need to demonstrate it has shared its plans with the San Francisco community, the first step to reopen the theater. After that, the company will have to request a sole source waiver to enter into exclusive negotiations with the port.

The Board of Supervisors must approve the waiver and no date has been set for such a hearing, Dunn-Martin said.

With height limits of new buildings on the waterfront under increased scrutiny recently by residents, Dunn-Martin said Teatro ZinZanni made it clear to the Port Commission its new development will be built within current limits.

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

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