SF Guerrilla Opera (2011-12)


SF Guerrilla Opera (2011-2012)

A roving sound poetry troupe that gave voice to street signs, leaked US embassy cables, and more. The collective staged nine operas in just over a year. Each opera interpreted a particular libretto or librettos in a particular context. Operas were staged in San Francisco in these locations: Adobe Bookstore, Borders Bookstore, Philip Burton Federal Building, Civic Center BART platform, Bay to Breakers route, Union Square and numerous locations around SOMA. One opera was staged on the Internet. Our last opera took place at the Berkeley Art Museum.

It’s significant that literary people organized this opera company. In the climate of late 2010 and early 2011 (well before Occupy) stories of massive government leaks and revolutions were hitting headlines on a daily basis. As writers, the originary organizers began to question the efficacy of writing and the sites of writing (the reading, the publication, etc.) — an age old question we decided to take up. We wondered if we could simultaneously write and do political action. Inspired by the writings of Jacques Ranciere, Fluxus word scores, and a host of other influences, we developed scores that activated contexts both in meatspace and in the digital realm. How could you make a political gesture that activates a wide variety of readings without being didactic (and therefore belittling to the intelligence of your peers)? And how might radical approaches to beauty apply to political action?

Company homepage at sfguerrillaopera.wordpress.com

Links to information and media on all of our operas (in chronological order):

A Night At The Opera With Hosni Mubarak Hosted By Dave Eggers

Where:  Adobe Bookstore, SF

When:  February 26, 2011 @ 7:00pm as a part of The George Spelvin Show

Score:  40+ people read aloud for 40 minutes from books found in the bookstore.


Going Away Party

Where:  Borders Bookstore, Union Square, SF

When:  March 26, 2011 @ 4:00pm

Score:  40+ people read aloud for 40 minutes from books found in the bookstore.


MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Prozac for your AntiSec)

Where:  in front of the Philip Burton Federal Building, SF

When: July 12, 2011, from 7:00am to 7:00pm


1. Meet at the Philip Burton Federal Building at 7am.

2. Sing from our librettos (500+ pages of leaked U.S. embassy cables) until 7pm.

Note: July 12 was the first day of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing.

Additional footage:  B Side



Where:  Civic Center BART, SF

When:  August 15, 2011, from 5:00pm to 6:00pm


1. Meet down on the Civic Center BART platform at 5:00pm TODAY.

2. For one hour, with a phone to your ear, sing (from whisper to monotone to belch) and repeat this:

| |:  Can you hear me now?  😐 |

Additional footage:  from Canyouhearmenow? (featuring paper hearts provided by the group Writers Bloc)


Bay to Breakers: Unpurposed

Where:  Bay to Breakers 12k foot race route, SF

When:  September 24, 2011 during 100 Thousand Poets for Change


1. This Saturday, just before 1:00 pm, meet at the intersection of Howard & Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco.

2. At exactly 1:00 pm, proceed on foot to Ocean Beach, singing text found en route.

Additional documentation was made by LA poet Mathew Timmons and can be found on the SF Guerrilla Opera site here.


The Leant Walrus Jolter

Where:  Union Square, SF and Liberty Square, NYC

When:  October 19, 2011 at 12 noon

Score: Sing The Wall Street Journal until you can’t sing anymore.


G.O. No.7

Where: Anywhere

When: October 26, 2011

Score: Sing the USA PATRIOT ACT to your nearest surveillance.

More documentation can be found on the SF Guerrilla Opera site here.


PIPA Longstocking and SOPAterno in The Magic Flute Mute


Where: The Internet

When: January 18, 2012

Score: For 24 hours, livestream no audio and no video from wherever you are.

Note: This opera was staged in conjunction with the massive Internet blackout protest against the PIPA and SOPA bills in congress.



Where:  Berkeley Art Museum, Berkley

When:  February 10, 2012

Score:  40+ people read aloud for 40 minutes from books found in the bookstore.