Fond Memories: Amy Kelly misses her entrance (two… actually)

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As we get ready for the move of a lifetime, we recollect the good and often strange things at 2711 B Street. For the next month, staff members, company actors and others share their funny, embarrassing and memorable times at B Street Theatre. Company Member Amy Kelly recollects when she didn’t arrive onstage on time.

The first time I was ever late onstage was my first show at the B Street. You have to understand, I pride myself in being ready for an entrance. I’m always waiting in the wings, being super on time, which you should because you’re an actor and that’s what you get paid for. But my first show here something happened. It was Hansel & Gretel.  I played a goblin. I looked like a mix of Beetlejuice and a meth addict. I’m not either of those things, but that’s how I looked. And the witch I served was Rick Kleber, in drag of course.

So my first entrance in the show is a big one. Rick – in drag – calls for me and I jump onto stage, roll over and say, “TAH DAH! I’M HERE! YOU CALLED FOR ME!” So, one day before my entrance I decided to go to  my dressing room to check my new cell phone. I was waiting for a message from my agent. I thought I had enough time, so I quickly went to check my phone and the message was waiting for me.

It was bad news. I had been in the video game The Walking Dead. And my agent called me saying, “They wanted your voice to sound older and sadly, they’ve decided to go with someone else.”

I was so sad.  I was heartbroken. “MY ONE CHANCE! I’M NOT GONNA DO IT! I”M NOT GONNA BE IN THE WALKING DEAD!”  I just sat there, not thinking about the show, brooding, when suddenly I hear an intern cry, “Amy!” And I realize that I’m supposed to be onstage. And I realize that I was supposed to be onstage at least a full minute earlier,  (a long time in theatre). I’ve just given Rick Kleber a full minute of free dialogue which might be the scariest thing of all.  I’m sure that all the teachers had to tell their students to ignore whatever that witch said in her minute long monologue.

So I freak, and I have so much adrenaline that I don’t just jump onto the stage, I flew through the air, higher than I’ve ever been before, like the audience was below me. And after I landed  I did the most acrobatic flip I could’ve ever done. I made up for the fact that Rick Kleber was alone onstage for a minute, talking nonsense.  And after that particular show, I swore I would never miss an entrance again.

B Street Theatre
Amy Kelly and Rick Kleber in Hansel & Gretel 

The next entrance I missed was during our first run of A Christmas Carol.  I was playing Belle, the ingenue. And after my first scene, I’m supposed to leave the stage with Scrooge and go around the theatre and enter in a different place.

So we were in previews and Belle’s dress was not completed.  I looked like a sister-wife. Like somebody on the set of Me and my Five Wives. So I exit with Scrooge after my first scene and Paulette (the costume designer) meets me offstage and we begin laughing about this unfinished dress. We begin laughing so hard, that I forgot that I had to re-enter immediately so I could dance with Dick, Scrooge’s competitor. And I hear Megan Wicks (actress playing Dick) say, “I really wish I was dancing with Belle right now. It’d be really nice if Belle were here.”

The second I heard it, I realized it was too late. The lights had already dimmed and Scrooge’s moment of jealous rage was ruined, cause all he watching was Dick dancing by himself.

 

B Street Theatre
Costume Designer Paulette Sand-Gilbert and Amy Kelly in An Act of God 

Look, I’m only telling these stories cause I didn’t get fired and I won’t ever miss an entrance again. I made a vow never to miss another one.

But I might get lost at the new theatre… there’s a chance.

Amy Kelly will be featured in both the Main Stage and the Family Series at the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts. Subscribe today.

 

 

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A History of B Street: Part I

B Street Theatre

Part I: Before B Street, there was Fantasy 

In 1979, Tim Busfield and John Hardy attempted to begin a travelling children’s theatre troupe in Johnson City, Tennessee. The theatre quickly closed, and for almost a decade, Tim Busfield didn’t indulge the idea of  trying again. That was until he moved to Sacramento in 1986.

That was the year Tim began the Fantasy Theatre. John Hardy served as his business manager and his brother Buck came out a month later. Tim created the model: a touring children’s theatre company, performing forty-five minute shows around Sacramento, Stockton and Yolo County. Tim was insistent that the show be entertaining first, and educational second.  They rented out a large apartment on 2416 G Street, bought a brand new van from Downtown Ford and began driving to schools, asking if they’d be interested in a play for their kids performed by professional actors.

As Buck Busfield reminisced, “It was probably the best theatre I’ve ever done. I remember writing A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing and we spent four hours just trying to figure out how to end the piece. It was an obsessive attention to detail; making sure the timing was just right, structuring the story perfectly to make it clear and exciting for kids.”

B Street Theatre

One of the most important aspects of the shows was acting. Buck and Tim brought out actors, such as Scott Jones, Leila Ivy, and Amy Krumhacker, from all across the country and began the Fantasy Theatre Troupe. Tim’s friend from the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Greg Alexander, arrived two years later .

“We were an equity children’s theatre company,” Busfield says, “and we were interested in acquiring the best actors; equity, non-equity, it didn’t matter. If you were good, we offered you a contract. It was that simple.”

It soon became news that the Fantasy Theatre would offer an Equity Contract to anyone who had the chops to perform in their plays. Dave Pierini was 20 years old at the time. He first heard of the Busfield Brothers from his friend Elisabeth Nunziato when they were performing an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland at the California State Fair.

“Elisabeth was taking a class with Ed Claudio at the time,” says Pierini, “And many other young actors were taking Ed’s class in the hope that they would get an opportunity to audition for the Fantasy Theatre and join the troupe. I was at ARC at the time and performing community theatre around the area, unsure of what to with my life. It wasn’t until I talked to Elisabeth that I learned about the Actor’s Union and that the Busfields were interested in giving young talented actors their first equity contract.”

B Street Theatre

Actors met at an Old Victorian house between 6:00 and 8:00 AM Monday through Thursday and traveled to a cornucopia of elementary schools. A lot of actors slept in the car, other’s read, some listened to the radio. Many of the young actors Buck and Tim discovered began on the school tour: Elisabeth Nunziato, Kurt Johnson, John Lamb, Rick Kleber, they all got in that van.

The major staple of both Fantasy Theatre and the School Tour has been the Fantasy Festival. The theatre accepts student written scripts from all over the area and after a thorough deliberation, six to eight are chosen to be performed.

A second grade teacher from the Sacramento School District remembers, “Each year, my kids get so excited when I give them that assignment. And anytime their plays get selected, the joy on their faces… it’s incredible!”

For 31 years, from the heydays of the Fantasy Theatre to the opening of the B Street Theatre, from the tour transitioning from union to non-union, the Fantasy Festival has remained one of the highlights for both the theatre and educators around the area.

B Street Theatre

In 1991, the B Street Theatre opened its doors. And after a year of running both an equity theatre for adults and an equity tour for children, Buck decided that the theatre’s finances could not support both theaters. He decided to turn Fantasy Theatre into a non-equity contract and renamed it the B Street School Tour. With the B Street Internship beginning in 1994, the Tour has become a training ground for acting, directing, and playwriting interns to hone in on their skills and develop into the actors that one day will perform on the B Street Main Stage.

“There’s no better training,” Pierini comments. “The Tour forces artists to focus on the most important aspect of theatre: the story. You have to break down its structure and find a way tell it in an interesting, funny way that will keep a child’s attention. It’s made me a better actor, writer, and director. It’s made a lot of our great actors here who they are.”

Busfield adds, “The tour is the heartbeat of this theatre. It doesn’t get as much attention as it should, but it’s how we all started. I hope one day we can make it an Equity Tour once again.”

History Extravaganza IV will begin touring the Sacramento area in January of 2018. Go to School Tour if you wish to have our tour come through your school or community center. Also A Moving Day runs until December 24. Come see the last show at the 2711 B Street Location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A B Street Thanksgiving

 

B Street TheatreSince 2014, B Street Theatre’s Artistic Producer Lyndsay Burch has hosted Thanksgiving for B Street Interns, guest artists, and company members who are far away from home. She took some time to tell us about the event and why it is important for B Street to be a home away from home.

My first year at B Street as a directing intern there was an unofficial thanksgiving at Garrett McCord’s house. He had graciously invited all of the interns, knowing that most of them didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was unaware of this Thanksgiving until it was too late and had already made plans with some friends in the Bay Area. However, I thought it was very gracious of Garrett to reach out to these kids who had moved from across the country, who were working long hours for the theatre. I took note of his generosity.

So, when I joined staff the next year I took the reins from Garret. My place is walking distance from the interns lodging, and because my family was clear across the country, I didn’t have any plans. So I decided to host the interns. I made a Turkey, appetizers, supplied the wine and beer, and invited them all over. I also went around to staff members the week before and asked for a donation of five dollars or more to give the interns so they could go to the store and buy some Thanksgiving treats for themselves.

At first, it was merely for interns. But then Out-of-Town actors performing in the Holiday Show began joining us. And then members of the acting company began coming around for Thanksgiving, and then staff, and suddenly, what began as just the Intern Thanksgiving became the B Street Thanksgiving. Tara Sissom comes every year with her boyfriend Donny. Lynnae Vanna comes over often. Amy Kelly has shown up, Stephanie Altholz arrived one time, John Lamb’s a consistent guest. Even Jerry Montoya showed up for a drink one year. All of our staff comes out to show how thankful they are for this artistic family and especially their appreciation for our interns.

And the amount of great food has increased. We had Apple Pie Moon Shine, Potatoes au gratin, an intern last year brought a Jewish dish that was his grandma’s recipe. We’ve had Bourbon Pecan Pie. And I’ve gotten pretty good at cooking a Turkey. I’m getting hungry now thinking about it.

B Street Theatre

They get a little crazy, in a fun way of course. Black Friday is one of the most dreaded days of the year for me. It’s not because of the shopping, it’s because the amount of  food that ends up in my apartment. Tons of people show up. Even if it’s just for a drink and a slice of pie after hanging out with family, it’s slowly becoming one of the biggest parties in town. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Typically we have about 10 to 15 interns at this time of year. However, because of the move, most of these interns are coming later. And the ones already here have a place to go for Thanksgiving (which is great!). So this year, I’m hosting a little “Pre-Game Thanksgiving Tail Gate.” On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, I’ve invited everyone over, and we’ll have desert and wine, plus dip and deviled eggs, and beer. We’ll have a fire in the backyard. It’s our little pre-game. Eat a little bit, get ready for Thanksgiving, and unwind after hard days of work. I’m really excited!

We wish all our readers a Happy Thanksgiving. We give particular thanks to you and all those who have supported us through this exciting time. Make sure to come see A Moving Day, running until Christmas Eve.

 

Interview with the Cast of ‘A Moving Day’

B Street Theatre

Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill talked with the cast of A Moving Day to learn about their history with the B Street Holiday Show, their favorite part of the play, and how much they’ll miss 2711 B Street.

Sean: When did you all first meet Buck Busfield and Dave Pierini? 

Jamie Jones:  I met Buck in, I think, 1988 when he came to see The Lady From DuBuque that a bunch of us Sacramento locals were doing at the time (including Elisabeth Nunziato). Dave, I first saw when he was playing the part of a duck in a show at the then Show Below (now Geery) with my friend Tamara Walters.  He killed it (as the duck).

Kurt Johnson: I met Buck and his brother Tim at a theatre conference in Las Vegas in 1993. That’s when I first auditioned for the  B Street Theatre Intern Company (it was called an apprentice company back then). Dave was actually the light-board operator on my very first show here, Voice of the Prairie. 

Stephanie Altholz: I met Dave when I was 18 in an apartment in midtown. He doesn’t remember that though. He thinks we met five years later at Weatherstone when I was being recruited for the internship. Buck, I met in 2008 when I was auditioning for the internship.

Greg Alexander:  I met Dave when he auditioned for The Fantasy Theatre (aka B Street School Tour) in 1991.  He was subsequently cast in Gold Country Tales and has been part of the company since then. I met Buck in 1980 in Louisville, KY when I was a member of the Actor’s Theatre Apprentice company. Buck was there visiting Tim, who was a member of the company at the time.

Tim Liu: I met them three weeks ago.

How many shows on the Mainstage have you done? 

GA: 38 shows on the Mainstage, eight of them have been Holiday shows.

SA: About 11 on the Mainstage.

KJ: I ‘ve performed in about 88 different productions at B Street Theatre since arriving in 1993. I’m not sure what percentage were Mainstage  as opposed to B3, Family Series, etc.  Also, that does not count the various sketch comedy shows, improv, and fundraisers I’ve been able to participate in.

JJ: Maybe 20 on the Mainstage.

TL: Zero…. well one, now. I guess.

What was the first holiday show you ever participated in?

JJ: The first holiday show I did was with Kurt, Dave, Mitch, Dan and interns Keenan and Lindsey.  It was aptly named Throwing Parties.  My character threw a turkey out the window.

GA: My first in was A Cricket On The Hearth in 1999 with acting intern Dana Booke and the late Mitch Agruss.

SA: An Almost Perfect Party. I played a mute boy named Percy and got my equity card.

KJ: I was in the very first Holiday show written by Buck, which was entitled Holiday Tales from Around the World. 

L: None of them. This is my first one.

When did you learn you would be in the last show at the old B Street?

SA: I knew before anyone else because I’m the most important company member.

GA: I approached Buck and Dave and they didn’t say “no.”

KJ: I approached them too! I really wanted to be a part  of our finale performance at 2711 B Street and sometime you just gotta ask.

JJ: A week after rehearsal had already begun.

TL: October 20.

What is your favorite part of this show? (No Spoilers please) 

SA: The fact that I’m not on stage very often. That’s great.

TL: I think my favorite part is… well it’s a reveal at the beginning but it’s a spoiler.

K: I’m glad that Jamie and Dave get to enact some revenge on me. I’ve tortured both of them onstage multiple times. I’m happy to move to the new space with that karmic debt settled.

G: The reveal.

JJ: Watching Greg from offstage just as the show ends.  It’s a very small thing that he does but it breaks my heart.

What will you miss the most about the 2711 B Street Location?

KJ: It’s like my home. Sooooo many memories have formed over the last 24 years.  I won’t really miss the building itself but I’ll miss that comfortable feeling a little bit. I’ll miss looking around and knowing that I literally built some of these walls. But I’m gonna love the showers.

GA: Three things comes to mind: 1)In the courtyard, if you look really close, you can still see the remnants of what was a 3-point line that we painted on what was a make shift basketball court where we played pick-up games after coming back from the road.  2) When lights would come up in the B2 theatre for a Family Series show attended by 120 3rd graders & their teachers, it created an illusion of being in a much larger space.  I’ll miss that.  3)The funky green rooms in both theatres.  Many cups of coffee, snacks, and naps were had there.

JJ: There is so much, I guess… the “feel” of the place.

SA: I know every inch of it. It’s home.

Tim? 

TL: uh… the carpet?

B Street Theatre

A Moving Day is currently on the B Street Mainstage and is running until Christmas Eve.  Come see our last show at the current location and go to our website, bstreettheatre.org, to check out the plays we’ll be doing at the Sofia.

 

 

Fond Memories: Jamie Jones, the first 9:00 PM Show, and the Renegade Snow Ball

B Street Theatre

As we get ready for the move of a lifetime, we recollect the good, and often strange times at 2711 B Street. For the next few months staff members, company actors and others share their funny, embarrassing and memorable times at B Street Theatre. Company member Jamie Jones recalls two epic tales; one occurred right when the Saturday 9:00 p.m. show began and one during our holiday production of Throwing Parties. 

So Kurty (Kurt Johnson) and I were doing Jack & Jill, which was a two hander; a long time ago. I don’t remember what the date was. Or the time of year.

Maybe it was five or six years into B Street. Maybe. Anyway, it’s a love story. People come together and then they divorce and then they get back together again through various events. We had just started doing the 9:00 p.m. shows. And the 9:00 p.m. shows, at the beginning, were not as well attended, and usually there were a couple of  drunk people in the audience.

So, this bittersweet love story is structured as: Scene, monologue, monologue, scene, scene, scene… monologue. And at one point, Kurty was bemoaning our break-up. And this guy, close to the front, is hearing Kurt  go on and on and on, and suddenly he yells, “UH! STOOOP WHIIIINING!” And Kurt, the pro that he is, keeps whining as the script entails and finishes the monologue. And in the very next section, I come out in a wedding dress and perform this monologue which answers Kurt’s complaints. And the second I begin talking,  the same guy barks out, “HEY! HE WAS WHIIINING!” And that was the beginning of the 9:00 show.

B Street Theatre
Jamie Jones & Ken Roht in B Street’s 2000 production “The Life of Henry Doyle”

There is this other story, during Throwing Parties, which was a Holiday show back in 2006. There’s a section when everyone is ribbing my character about how small the Turkey was for Christmas dinner. And at one moment, out of anger, my character throws the turkey out the window and breaks it. And I could never get it through the window. It would hit the wall, or it would hit a beam and bounce back onto the set.

And I remember that one day, the window actually broke before it was supposed to. It was a fragile thing, and someone had slammed the door during their entrance, and the window just collapsed. And in the very next scene, the character playing my son is supposed to throw snow balls at the window to irritate his father. The snowballs were wet paper towels with some snow inside, so the snow would splatter when they hit the window. And this actor, for some reason, threw the snowball THROUGH the already broken window, and hit one of the patrons in the front row. And afterwards, the entire cast looked at this one patron, terrified of how he would respond. And it looked like… honestly, it looked like he had had a pair of wet panties on his shoulder. And everyone just lost it. Oh, that poor man… just came to see a show, ended up in a snow ball fight.

Jamie Jones is currently in A Moving Day, the last production at our 2711 B Street location. The show runs until Christmas Eve and the 9@9 show will be this Saturday November 18.

 

 

 

Meeting Tim Liu, AKA Casey in ‘A Moving Day’

B Street Theatre

B Street Theatre has brought in a lot of brilliant guest artists. Many of them have created great roles on our stages and have been brought back several times. For our last production in the original theatre, we were very happy to find a talented actor like Tim Liu to play the role of Casey. In addition to being a wonderful new actor, Lui is a skilled musician based on the east coast. But for the next six weeks he’ll call Sacramento home.

So, Tim, where are you from?

Tim Liu: I’m from Jersey. A place called Kendall Park, New Jersey.

And how’d you find acting?

I went to school for engineering. And I quit that because I hated it. And I needed to boost my GPA. So I took a random acting class because it was three credits and I thought I could get an A. And it was taught by a guy named Richy Call, who happened to run the Lyric Theatre and was a successful actor, and I was hooked.

When was your first professional job?

2012. I did an off-Broadway show, where I had no lines, I wore all black, and I moved some furniture. And then in 2014, I did an apprenticeship at Shakespeare New Jersey. You see… before that, I had taken a  job with Pollution Prevention where I regulated boats and how much oil they carried, etc. And I just… hated it. I did it for two years. And I decided that I’d rather take an unpaid apprenticeship than work there and it’s been for the better.

And so now you’re in New York?

I live in New Jersey still, but yeah, I mostly work in New York. I just did a reading with The National Black Theatre. And before that I was in a new adaptation of Hedda Gabler which was entitled, Hedda, and it had a couple of Kurt Cobain songs. And before that I did a five person version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where I played Demetrius, Thesus and Quince. I was an understudy at first, and then I went on for all the previews and the opening.

Are you enjoying Sacramento?

I do! I’m missing a lot of horrible weather back home. So I’m happy I could escape to California. Sacramento is beautiful in the fall.

How has this process been?

I find creating new plays a lot of fun. Switching things around, cutting big sections, and making sure the play is right. You just gotta go with the flow and have fun. And I’m really honored being a part of the last show here at the current location. It’s exciting! In an era where a lot of theatre companies are closing down, to see a theatre company expand… it’s just… cool. Getting to see all the plans and watching them put on the final touches, it’s great.

 B Street Theatre

And now…some tidbits…

What’s your favorite thing to eat?

I’ve been wanting pizza like crazy.

Go to Giovanni’s and Chicago Fire Pizza. 

NICE!

What’s something you like to do on your spare time?

I play a lot of guitar and I love writing songs.

What’s your favorite song you’ve written?

I have this song called Circus,” which is this gypsy jazz type of thing with a cool progression.

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What was the last movie you saw?

In theaters? That would be, maybe Wonder Woman. And at home, I watch a lot of documentaries on Netflix. I just finished watching Night School, which is about adults trying to get their high school diplomas and how they’ve persevered through their own trials.  It’s a great show. You definitely should watch it!

And everyone should come see Tim Liu play the role of Casey in B Street Theatre’s A Moving Day, opening this Sunday. Tickets are available now

 

 

The Acting Company’s Love for the Holidays

B Street Theatre

Esteemed members of our acting company Dave Pierini, Tara Sissom, and Greg Alexander discuss the Holiday Show Tradition here at the B Street and the moments that have made it so memorable. 

DAVE PIERINI (ARTISTIC PRODUCER) 

I’ve done thirteen holiday shows since we started doing them in 1994. For awhile, it was pretty much guaranteed that Kurt Johnson, Mitch Arguss, and I would be in the Holiday Play, whatever it would be called. We’ve done at least… six… at least. And of course, Buck always wrote plays in which Kurt’s character antagonized my character. And Kurt took full advantage. He got to punch me, slap me, noogie me. One play, Kurt and I are playing partners, and my character has an asthma attack, and Kurt’s character is supposed to comfort me and Kurt invariably would lean on my chest, or poke me in the stomach, and basically torture me while my character is having this horrible asthma attack. And the show we did twice, To All A Good Night, Kurt had to seriously talk about his childhood blankie, and he’d just crack himself up, and he’d turn to all of us in the cast and of course, we’d begin laughing.

It’s a great tradition of Buck’s and it’ been fun to watch Buck progress into this fantastic playwright.  We’ve exhausted a lot of holiday themes. And Buck always finds a way to find some slight connection to the holidays, while also writing a fun original story. At first the plays were all very funny and silly, but as he continued the tradition, he began writing some beautiful drama’s with good jokes. The Holiday Show tradition has always brought along a lot of fun surprises. I’m happy we’re closing out the current location with one of Buck’s new works and I know we’ll continue to do it in the new space.

TARA SISSOM (CORE ACTING COMPANY) 

B Street Theatre

My first appearance on the Mains Stage was a holiday show entitled Make Someone Happy. Buck had written two roles for me: A nun and a prostitute. All the holiday shows are very different; they’re all reactive, and it’s fun to rehearse them because there are constant changes. It’s fun… and hectic. But anything hectic in theatre is fun (for the most part). I was this sweet nun in Act I and Act II I was this Appalachian prostitute in a cage. It was my debut at B Street and I was only 21, and I mean, WHAT RANGE! A prostitute and a nun. That’s the kind of unique characters and story lines that the holiday show has created. It’s always funny, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it can be a bit naughty but in a fun, original way that is really entertaining.

And I mean, People love these holiday shows; for many reasons. People love that it’s always original. There are so many recycled stories during this time of year, and they’re all beloved and fantastic, but we offer something new and fresh that I know many patrons have appreciated. It also furthers our mission in creating new works. We build new plays and new theatres! Pretty neat, huh?

GREG ALEXANDER (ACTING COMPANY MEMBER/HEAD OF OUTREACH & EDUCATION)

B Street Theatre

In 1999 Buck wrote an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Cricket on the Hearth.  There was scene in which a baby wrapped in a blanket was loaded into an air cannon inside a crib and launched all the way across the stage to be caught by the mother.  Rehearsing that bit, to get the angle and air pressure just right to keep the baby from flying all the way into the second row of patrons, was one of the most hysterical technical rehearsals ever.  Needless to say, the bit brought the house down with laughter, and a big sigh of relief from the entire cast when it worked. It’s a wonderful thing, being a part of something which is happening for the first time. Buck has given us all that opportunity many times.

A Moving Day, the last Holiday show at the current B Street location, will open this Sunday November 12. Get tickets now and enjoy this final ride at the theatre where the trains are heard.