Women of B Street!

Four amazing B Street women!

Read an interview with the playwrights of Treatment, and an insightful blog post by our Resident Scenic Director!


#1. Interview with Tara Sissom, Stephanie Altholz, and Amy Kelly

The Women of ‘Treatment’

Conducted by Playwriting/Literary Intern Sean Patrick Nill


Sean: So how did this whole thing come about? 

Stephanie: I can tell you that, I was there at its conception. (Looking at Tara, who’s laughing) Stop it! (They laugh) I was driving home during a break, and I got a call from Buck, and he said, “I’m right behind you.” And I looked and he was right behind me. And he said, “Pull over, let’s get coffee.” And at coffee he said, “I love you, Tara, and Amy. And I want you to write a play.” And I said, “Oh, ok!” And he organized a meeting at Shine Coffee Shop (E and 14th) with the three of us and Buck and Dave (Pierini), and he said, “You’re all funny, despite the horrible things that happened to you. And I want you to write a play about how funny came out of it.” So that was the seed. And that was a year ago.

Sean: How’s the process been?

Tara: Well, we’re not strangers. We’re three artists that have all collaborated before, in comedy and sketch and we’ve done several plays together. But writing a play was a whole new thing. So what we had to do was find a new system, a new vocabulary so that we could respect each other as artists, writers, individuals. And so Stephanie kind of set up the structure, and then we’d come together and read it. And then Amy and I would take passes at the draft. And we came up with this first draft and read it for Dave, and he was like, ‘Ok, it’s like 140 pages!’

Stephanie: It was our vomit draft.

Tara: Right, you know we threw it up on the page, and then after that meeting we came together as a group and started ‘building the cake’ one layer at a time, we cut off the unneeded corners and we re-iced and now we have a lean, tight 100 page script; the sexy version.

Amy: But that first draft was awesome. And what Stephanie did was brilliant. We ended up going on a camping trip. You know, ‘We have to write this play, let’s get to really know each other, let’s sit around a camp fire and go nuts’. And what Stephanie did, was literally almost word for word re-created this night that we had on this camping trip.

Stephanie: I had my notebook and a pen with me the entire time we were camping.

Tara: You were also more sober than the two of us.

Stephanie: Yeah that’s true.

Tara: She was the documentarian of that night

Amy: And that first draft, it was beautiful, because it was this long conversation about each other, about how we react to things, secrets we didn’t know, a lot of fun things.

Stephanie: And Amy’s great at creating action, moving the plot forward.

Amy: We all gave important ingredients to make sure that cake tasted goooood!

Stephanie: Well, and Tara’s from The New Colony, a theatre company that builds plays from the ground up. So she had a lot of experience with structure, so she you know, she cut that cake up to make sure that the layers were in the right order.

Tara: I’ve finally gotten the cake metaphor, it’s, so Stephanie baked the cake, I put on the frosting, and then Amy ate it.

(the whole room laughs) 

Stephanie: (Laughing) Oh my gosh!

Tara: And after eating it she would be like, she’d say, “It needs more vanilla.”

Amy: (In a funny voice) Just needs a little more vanilla.

Sean: How important is it that this play, a play written and starring three women, is being produced right now?

Tara: I mean, yeah, it’s important. It’s a play by young women, that’s always good, but it’s themes and core are human: learning, how to cope with grief, the language of saying goodbye, hurting the one you love most, keeping secrets. These aren’t just female issues, these are human issues, told through our point of view.

RANDOM QUESTIONS:

Favorite Color?

Stephanie: ‘Red’

Amy: ‘Green’

Tara: ‘Green’s my favorite too’

Hometown?

Stephanie: ‘Highland Park, Illinois’

Amy: Sacramento, California

Tara: ‘Baltimore, Maryland’

Favorite Thing about the B Street Theatre:

Stephanie: It’s a second family.  Buck’s the Dad that works too much, Dave’s the Mom that takes care of all of us emotionally, and feeds us, and we’re all the highly dysfunctional, but deeply loved and loving siblings, who occasionally have to make out with each other onstage. What an awful but incredibly apt metaphor.

Tara: Earlier in my career, B Street was always a home base, a place to re-center myself as an actor and ground my technique. Now it’s home, a place where I’m given permission and opportunity to create and push myself as not only an actor, but as an artist.

Amy: The B Street has reinforced my love of live theatre, I have been given countless opportunities to showcase my talent, and perform alongside some extremely gifted people. Buck was my mentor when I was 14 years old, and has continued to mentor me, and my fellow company members, he is the reason I took so many creative chances in my life and succeeded. His continued belief in my abilities, in our abilities is astounding. I truly feel that I am at home under the lights of the B Street stage, and I’m excited to make my debut as a co-creator of Treatment. My favorite part of working here is that the possibilities are endless not only through acting, but now writing. There’s no place like it on earth.


#2. “The Whirlwind of Rep at B Street Theatre”

Samantha Reno, resident scenic designer


Many of our patrons might be delighted or intrigued to know that B Street Theatre, at certain points of the year, operates as a repertory theatre company— or they are aware without knowing what’s involved to pull it off!
       In its simplest model, a repertory theatre is a theatre company that has developed a repertoire— that is, various types of stock plays— that can be switched in and out from the stage at a moment’s notice, or run consecutively within the span of a few hours. B Street Theatre does this with our Family Series and B3 Series, although if we’ve done our job right an audience member would not realize it!
       The origins of the modern repertory company can be found around the time of the Italian Renaissance with the rise of commedia dell’arte traveling troupes. A group of players would create “stock characters,” or archetypes, and perform a series of short plays with comedic and bawdy plots, with minimal changes to costumes or scenery (if at all) so that audience members could always identify their iconic personalities.
       State-sponsored French theatre perfected this art form in the neoclassical period. The rehearsal schedule in a repertory theatre could be rigorous: not only would actors be continuously rehearsing from the usual lineup of productions, but they would also be working on new plays to add to the repertoire throughout the week.  So popular was the rep system that by the 19th century even the smallest villages in England had a community supported rep theatre with a core company. To add variety, many of these casts would add guest actors to their lineup, although performer fees would make this an expensive venture to the typical hamlet if the actor was well known.
       The rise of set design as a more developed art form in the 20th century brought along its own challenges to the historic rep theatre model as companies sought to expand casts and musical revues to compete with the movie industry. Scenic design had always been an important part of the spectacle to 19th century American audiences (in fact, audiences would consider scene changes as part of the show), but the advent of the Golden Age of Broadway made production companies increase their overhead of scenery, props, costumes, and the labor to make it all happen.
       Even today, running shows in rep is an expensive and logistical challenge, albeit still a very popular one with summer stock and festival companies. Many opera companies throughout the country still do it, and they do it with a crew of dozens of stagehands and technicians on pay roll.
       Smaller companies like B Street Theatre do not have the army of stagehands that grand opera has, so when planning rep scenery between two shows, the responsibility first falls to someone like me, the designer, to come up with two different production designs that fulfill the following functions:
       1. Are there scenic elements that can be shared between the two shows?
       2. Can these scenic elements be repurposed or remained to give each show its own unique look?
       3. Is the backstage large enough to accommodate scenery not in use?
       4. Can we activate the fly (overhead) space for scene storage?
       5. How will the color of the basic, stationary set affect both productions? For example, the color family for MacBeth wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for, say, Little Shop of Horrors.
       6. What are our labor resources for moving two productions in and out twice or more a day?
       7. What are our additional budget and hardware considerations for beefing up and protecting scenic units that are getting more than usual wear and tear with continuous moving on and off stage?
       This and much more.
       Did you notice that none of these questions involves aesthetics or making sure the sets “look cool?” That is because the beauty of a scenic design in a rep plot is always last consideration after the functionality and visual problem solving that must occur in order to make the space useable to two different casts with two different directors.
       If we manage to create two sets that are both functional and look amazing, then we have won the day!
       This season Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook (Family Series) and Lungs (B3 Series) are running in rep at B Street Theatre. I encourage you to come see both because they are sure to be fantastic productions, and also to notice how we reconcile two scenic designs on the same stage. What is the same? What is different? What is used differently? How does form follow function?
       What’s an unbelievable logistical and budgetary challenge to some is just another day at the office for the talented staff that make my chicken scratch drawings a reality.

 

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A Building Update from the Inside

By Lyndsay Burch – Artistic Producer & Move Manager

T minus 322 days until we open the New B Street Theatre on Capitol Avenue. How unbelievable and exciting that February 1, 2018 will be here before we know it.

Check Out B Street’s Countdown Clock!

As one of B Street’s Artistic Producers and the manager of the move to the new facility, I’m hard at work in many different areas to make sure that we open at our best. Even better than anyone can imagine!

Of course, there are the internal logistics of the move and right now we are working on the production calendar for our new facility. B Street loves producing different types of theatre for everyone and in our new venue, we’ll also be hosting some dance, music and comedy acts for our patrons to enjoy. This week, we had a two hour meeting at Outlet Coworking to determine our calendar of productions and events. As you can see from the picture below, there are a lot of moving parts but we’ll be making some exciting announcements about scheduling and seating over the next few weeks!

New Building Work
Hard at work at Outlet Coworking Space!

Outside of what’s going on inside of B Street’s walls, it’s very important for us to stay connected with the national arts community as we continue to become a nationally renowned theatre company. Part of my job is to manage our national presence by going to conferences, building relationships and looking at some best-practices of other companies that B Street may want to incorporate. I’ve gotten to do some pretty cool things over the past few months such as:

  1. Work on a production of A Thousand Splendid Suns at American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco. While ACT has a budget that is currently 10 times that of B Street Theatre (!!), I still learned so much from working with this prestigious and successful organization. Most importantly, I learned that all arts organizations face similar challenges and it’s important for us to work together in solving them!
  2. Travel to the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) in Lexington, Kentucky to recruit B Street’s newest company of interns. As we move into the new facility, it will be very important for us to have a talented and hardworking group of interns! I had the privilege of traveling to the largest theatre-job conference in the country with Company Member Tara Sissom to audition and interview top-tier talent.
  3. Collaborating with National New Play Network (NNPN) Core Member Theatre, Salt Lake City Acting Company for their annual Playwrights’ Lab in Salt Lake City, UT. As you may know, B Street is a Core Member of NNPN because of our commitment to producing new plays. It’s always great when we can work with other NNPN members across the country to discover the best new plays and playwrights that we can bring to Sacramento for our audiences.

So for those of you who may be a little nervous about our move to Capitol Avenue, don’t worry! We’re working around the clock to make sure that your B Street experience keeps the same intimacy but now we’ll be able to tell even bigger and better stories.