Theatre Rhinoceros
John Fisher, Executive Director

San Francisco Live Professional Queer Theater

GLAAD Media Award Winner

San Francisco's queer theater starts its 38th season November 4th.

The World Premiere of "Shakespeare Goes to War" kicks off the season.  Graphic by David Wilson.
The World Premiere of Shakespeare Goes to War kicks off the season.

Press Information and Publicity Photos

Bay Area Theater Critics Circle says "Go See" "Shakespeare Goes to War"
Bay Area Theater Critics Circle says "Go See"
Shakespeare Goes to War

The Critics Love...

Shakespeare Goes to War

a New Comedy-Drama By John Fisher

... Please see the coverage below!

November 4 to 28th
Wed. – Thurs. @ 730 PM; Fri. – Sat. @ 800 PM
Saturday Matinees @ 300 PM
Tuesday Night performances 11/17 and 11/24 ONLY @ 700 PM

At Thick House (1695 18th Street, at Arkansas, SF, CA  94107) Map It

It’s the 1970s and Jack goes off to high school unsure of himself and his place in the world. There he meets his great inspiration, an English teacher named Harry Smith. Harry introduces him to Shakespeare, acting, and the magic of theatre.

Harry also shares his experiences of being a prisoner of war in a German prison camp during World War II. There he met his own surprising inspiration: the crafty and deceptive Colonel Klambach, camp commandant.

The play is set in the P.O.W. camp in 1944 and at Jack’s high school in 1978.

1978 was the time of the notorious Brigg’s Initiative. The Brigg’s Initiative, a ballot proposition designed to fire all gay public school teachers, threatens Harry’s career. As Harry faces his own challenges in the past and the present, Jack learns that he might be able to help Harry, through his use of a surprising weapon – Shakespeare.

Tickets Now Available at
Tickets for Shakespeare Goes to War are available now online

Shakespeare Goes to War is a Hit with the Critics!

***** -- 5 Stars
Fisher succeeds in enlightening us about theater, Shakespeare, acting, Brecht, WWII, history, teaching, learning, coming out, racism, and gay repression...
The dialogue is crisp, witty, and thought-provoking, giving us insights into theater, war, and heroism in the classroom and in political life.
— Barry David Horwitz – TheatreStorm Full Review



very clever

John Fisher has created a moving “thank you” to the mentors that inspired him to go into theater. The thankless job of being a teacher and inspiring youth. The Briggs years have passed and gay teachers have it a bit better, and any teachers inspiration to youth is exceptional.

It is a touching tribute to Fisher’s gate to theatre - and I highly recommend this show. it is a great way to celebrate your Thanksgiving break..

Vince Media –

This is the kind of writing that should inspire more people to consider making Theatre Rhinoceros (a/k/a "the longest running LGBT theatre anywhere") a beneficiary in their wills.

Based on the merits of Fisher's latest work (a psychologically complex and multi-layered drama with frequent flashbacks), I see no reason to exclude him from a long list of prolific LGBT playwrights that includes Edward Albee, Jon Robin Baitz, Terry Baum, Douglas Carter Beane, Eric Bentley, Adam Bock, Charles Busch, Stuart Bousel, Noel Coward, Harvey Fierstein, Lorraine Hansberry, Moises Kaufman, Larry Kramer, Lisa Kron, Tony Kushner, Arthur Laurents, Charles Ludlam, Taylor Mac, Terrence McNally, Joe Orton, Paul Rudnick, Paula Vogel, Lanford Wilson, Oscar Wilde, and Tennessee Williams.


In an era when teachers are being demonized as soulless leeches who don't deserve to be paid with taxpayer dollars, Shakespeare Goes To War does a splendid job of showing how the most unlikely person can turn into a life-changing mentor.

At its core, Shakespeare Goes To War is a beautifully crafted tale about the art of mentoring, the gift of learning, the power of self-realization, and the magic of theatre that should be seen by students and teachers everywhere.

George Heymont – mycultural


With the play frequently traveling between time and place, Fisher makes ingenious use of the Thick House theater space.

Fisher can usually be counted on to write at least one new play each season for Theatre Rhino, of which he is executive director, and Shakespeare Goes to War is one of his strongest plays in years.

From the intriguing symmetry of scenes past and present to the emotional richness of the main characters, he finds a comfortable mix of the comic and the serious. Scenes in the POW camp can indeed be funny, not because of the circumstances, but through human idiosyncrasies on both sides of the war. And there is, as one might expect, plenty of humor in the high school scenes, but there are also leaden clouds hovering.

Richard Dodds – Bay area reporter -



Fisher explores various worthy themes: mentor/mentee relationships, especially when the mentor is deeply flawed; the value of art and its relevance to real-world concerns; coming-of-age struggles; racism and homophobia.

Jean Schiffman – SF


A montage of several, compelling stories; but at its heart, it is about a man’s enduring love and admiration for a teacher who gave him a life’s worth of inspiration in two separate semesters of his freshman and senior years.

... captivating, entertaining, and rewarding.

Gabriel A. Ross…is both hilarious and impressive in his performances.

For anyone, who is most everyone, who has that one teacher or mentor whose image and voice still vividly play out periodically in your mind’s stage as an inspiration to be your best self, Shakespeare Goes to War is written for you and should be seen in this premiere of Theatre Rhinoceros.

Eddie Reynolds –


Compelling, provocative, and of full flesh. Numerous issues of great import are revealed, but in a truly entertaining fashion, with nuance and balance rather than the didactic tone that many "meaningful" storylines take.

This thoughtful theatrical piece works on a number of levels. Not only does it raise numerous social issues, but no situation that is introduced is reduced to a facile analysis and conclusion. The playwright recognizes the complexity of who we are; the issues we face in life; and the frequent contradictions of our beliefs and actions. … It should be seen by many, and it will have most talking about it all the way home and more.

Victor Cordell –

Shakespeare Goes to War, a new work by Theatre Rhinoceros Executive Director John Fisher, now playing at the Thick House, is almost exactly what Bay Area theater needs: a homegrown production filled with promise and possibility.

As Jack Fletcher and the young Harry Smith, Gabriel A. Ross is terrific—especially in the plays within the play, school and prison camp productions of Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Othello—where he brings real zeal to the roles, especially the distaff ones. Kevin Copps also does terrific work playing a variety of roles, especially a brief turn as Ronald Reagan.

John Fisher directs as well, and he does some excellent work, bringing real kinetic energy to the action, which takes place up and down a series of stair steps that make up the set.

But perhaps his most charming directorial choice is to have all music and sound effects created by cast members standing at the back of house.

Worth your time.

Patrick Thomas -

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  Thank you to SFist Daily for recognizing Theatre Rhinoceros in its September, 2015 list of Best Local Theaters in the Bay Area.
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In Memoriam: José Julio Sarria (1923-2013)

We were saddened to hear of the passing of the great activist José Sarria.

In 2010 and again in 2011 we proudly presented a play about his life and struggles. One of the treats of that production was having him come see the show and getting to meet the man himself.

José blessed us in life and he will go on blessing all of us forever. His generosity and determination are an inspiration to all gay artists and activists.

SexRev by Kent Taylor
José Sarria and John Fisher
from José 's special appearance at an April 28, 2010 performance of
"SexRev: The José Sarria Experience"
Tom Orr in "SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience" .  Photo by Kent Taylor
Tom Orr in "SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience"
Photo by Kent Taylor.
 Tom Orr and Michael Vega in "SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience" Written and Directed by John Fisher. Photos by Kent Taylor.
Tom Orr and Michael Vega in "SexRev: The Jose Sarria Experience"
Photo by Kent Taylor.

Foundations Supporting Theatre Rhinoceros

Theatre Rhinoceros is funded by the generosity of the following organizations:

San Francisco Grants for the Arts


The The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation


The San Francisco Art Commission


The Dramatists Guild


The Zellerbach Family Foundation


The James Hormel Foundation


The Horizons Foundation


The Bob Ross Foundation


The Walmart Foundation


Shakespeare Goes to War Discount Coupon!

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1. Go to the ticketing page.
2. Enter Discount Code SHAKES2015
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