Part II: 2711 B Street in Sacramento, CA
Sean Nill (Artistic Associate) : What was 2711 B Street before it was a theatre?
Buck (Producing Artistic Director): It was a vacant steel building that used to make dental appliances, like retainers, and at one other time was a roofing company.
S: How did we find it?
B: Well, our Fantasy Theatre offices were over on 14th street, and Leon Corcos who owned the B Street buildings dropped by our office and said, “Do you want to use our space?” And I immediately said, “Yes!” And it became office space and a rehearsal room for awhile. At the time, Tim was working in L.A, and the second he came back up and saw the new space he said, “We gotta open a theatre for adults.” It was Tim’s idea. He just threw a lot of creativity and energy into the project and made it happen.
S: How long did it take you all to put up the first show?
B: Eight weeks. We built the theatre and rehearsed at the same time.
S: What was the first show?
B: Mass Appeal starring Tim and Ed Claudio. It was directed by their mentor at East Tennessee State Bud Frank. They brought Bud out, and while they were rehearsing, Tim would be telling the contractors how to add seats and risers and a lighting grid.
S: How different is the theatre now then it was then?
B: A lot different. We had no wall separating the backstage from the audience. It was all just scaffolding. The stage managers booth looked like it was floating in the air. There was no acoustic style ceiling, so, when it rained, you couldn’t hear the actors talk. It was like someone pushed mute on the show. There was also this random kitchen in the North West section next to the women’s restroom.
S: Didn’t Kurt break a ton of dishes in there during one of the plays?
S: When you were first starting up, was it difficult to get people in the seats?
B: No. We got a lot of press for Mass Appeal because Tim had just won an Emmy a couple of years before for Thirtysomething. His star was rising, and so we got a lot of lookie-loos to see the superstar act. And then once they saw the productions and realized how good we were, they kept coming back. I mean, we made some mistakes. We realized we couldn’t take summers off. We also used to bring in a lot of actors from Hollywood, who were tremendously talented, and we obviously thought they would sell tickets fast but it was a little hit and miss.
S: Who’d you bring up?
B: Chris Mulkey from Twin Peaks, Edie McLurg from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Keith Coogan. Really talented people, it was fun having them up.
S: Is that what inspired forming your own company of actors?
B: No, not really. The company didn’t start until about 2004 or 2005. Dave had just come back from New York to do Underpants, and we always had brought back our favorites, and the idea just hit me to make it official.
S: How long was it after we moved into 2711 B Street that we wanted to build a brand new theatre?
B: It’s been my life-long dream to build a massive children’s theatre. It was always on my mind.
S: So the second we moved into 2711 B Street, we were thinking of a new theatre.
B: Not immediately….but definitely soon after.
S: What have been some of your favorite shows that we produced here?
B: Escanaba in da Moonlight, Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche, Three Days of Rain is a beautiful drama, Around the World in Eighty Days was just tremendous. We found so many creative solutions to the technical limitations that the theatre had. We mimed, created live sound, we used every part of that theatre. The actors here have always been so inventive, you gotta just let them work and see how they bring the story to life.
S: Are you gonna miss this place at all?
B: I don’t feel sentimental about the place, but I get sentimental about the theatre we made here. I’ll will definitely think of all the times I laughed. I mean, during Underpants, there was a moment that to this day, if I think about it, I’ll laugh so hard. There’s a moment of the play, Dave just started flopping on the ground with this imaginary paralysis, and Peter Story and Thomas Redding’s face…I can laugh just thinking about it right now…(Buck begins to laugh) Peter just…you can see it on his face, he’s thinking, “What. IS. Happening? Do I say anything? Do I help him?” And of course, no one helped him. And everyone’s slightly nauseated. And then Dave tries to get this piece of hard candy while flopping on the ground. Those are the memories that get me. A place is a place, but the theatre we made here…that’s something to be proud of.
The last show at the 2711 B Street location will happen today at 2:00 PM. We liked to thank all of our donors, subscribers, patrons, staff, actors, guest artists, and interns who have created such a thriving theatre. Buy your tickets for our first show at The Sofia, One Man, Two Guvnors, and experience the next leg of B Street Theatre’s trip. The party only gets better from here.