Although the Retro Dome closed its doors in January of this year, Shannon Guggenheim is keeping active and looking for a new location in the Silicon Valley for the theater. We interviewed her about the recent closure of the Retro Dome, how she spends her time when she’s not working and some of her favorite local hangouts.
Name: Shannon Guggenheim
Occupation: Theater producer
How long have you lived/worked in San Jose?
I’ve lived in San Jose with my husband and partner, Scott, since 2006. His family is deeply rooted in this area. We’ve been working in this area since the early 90s.
At what point did you decide to stay in San Jose and pursue your career?
It was really in 2009. Prior to that we had been touring, we had live productions that we would produce for various clients or shows that we would take on the road for ourselves. We’ve toured all over the country but in 2009 we decided that our second born child, who has severe brain damage, just required more stability than we could provide when touring.
What do you like most about San Jose?
It offers the best of all possible worlds. Most theater artists look for a culturally aware and vital community and want to perform something other than something very cookie cutter. It’s really nice to be welcomed into a community that is very diverse but by the same token, usually to have that kind of diversity you end up in a neighborhood that’s maybe not so safe. It’s great to have a very neighborhood feeling in pretty much any community that you go to in San Jose. There is still a small town sensibility with a big city culture.
If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?
I don’t know if this is limited to San Jose, but sometimes it feels like it is: Although the art culture is diverse, it does seem that people are a bit more interior these days. Getting them out of the house is a little trickier. It seems like it takes a really big ticket item to get them out of the house, like a sports championship or a touring artists coming to the arena. There’s a lot to be offered and to be enjoyed in San Jose and in surrounding cities that isn’t just something on a national scale.
Where do you like to hang out when you’re not working?
I guess, ironically, although my complaint was that the community at large seems rather interior, I suppose I’m rather guilty as charged. The main thing I want to do is spend time with my kids. I think that we have to work so hard to do what we do so it is nice to actually spend time with the kids and go somewhere. I guess we always like to be in an Apple store, if it’s not a park. We’re always looking for the next big thing.
What are you doing now that the Retro Dome has closed?
Well, we’re actively looking for a new location. But we’re also keeping ourselves busy with taking bookings from other clients. Right now, we’re doing a project to use theatrical design in corporate office buildings. We are renovating various locations at high tech companies here in the area and as far north as ask.com in Oakland, to give more interest and life into the otherwise bland office spaces.
Where do you plan on relocating?
We definitely want to stay in the San Jose area. So we’re looking in Santa Clara, we’re looking in downtown San Jose, and we’ve looked in Los Gatos and Saratoga. It will defiantly be in this region.
What are your favorite San Jose performance spaces outside of the Retro Dome?
Well obviously, The Rep, their building is great. That’s why they built it. It makes for a wonderful performance experience. I also enjoy some of the outdoor opportunities that the region provides, being able to go and do music in the park is great, and it’s a change from being inside a venue.
Where do you go for a post-show meal/drink?
When we were at West Gate it was pretty typical to find us at the new Buffalo Wings location. They definitely loved having us and all of our fans go there before and after shows; it was the hot spot. We like to think it definitely is what it is—being a sports location, sports bar and sports restaurant—but then whenever the theater people came over it made for a nice change, and it was very lively.
What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
The most rewarding thing about what we do is when a fan makes a point of coming up and talking to us after a show. We’ve had some very unique guests come up to us, from a 92 year old man who saw the Andrews Sisters live back in the day and then came to see our performance of the Andrews Sisters to a woman recently who came to see our Game Show show and said that she had been diagnosed with cancer. She said she hadn’t left her house in months and had just been really ill and depressed, but she was such a fan of game shows that she just really wanted to come out to see the show. She said it was the best medicine because it was fun, she laughed, she felt good for the first time in months.
Who is the most interesting person you know in San Jose?
Jyl Jurman, who works at the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. I think what makes her interesting is that the scope of things she deals with on a daily basis is rather mind boggling. It goes from all the smaller community events that she deals with just on her own campus all the way into fundraising and sending aid to tsunami victims and terror victims. It’s amazing the complete 180 her day goes through, in my observation.