History of B Street: Part II

Amy Kelly

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.

Amy Kelly
Newspaper clipping for Mass Appeal, starring Tim Busfield & Ed Claudio

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?

B: Probably.

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.

Amy Kelly                       Amy Kelly

Amy Kelly         Amy Kelly

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.

Amy Kelly

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. 

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Sister Swing: Sending off the 2711 B Street location.

Amy Kelly

Valerie Marston has worked at B Street Theatre for 15 years now. She is also part of  a popular jazz  group in Sacramento: Sister Swing, who will be performing in the B Street lobby just before the final production at the 2711 B Street location. Acting Intern Olivia Schaperjohn interviewed Valerie, discussing the band’s history and her love of B Street.

How long have you been with Sister Swing?

We’ve been a group for 25 years.  It’s been myself, Paula Chafey-Merrill, and Leigh Hannah. We’ve been the same three girls for 25 years. And for the record, we’re not actual sisters, but we feel like sisters. We’ve been singing together so long that we can anticipate how to phrase a lyric or adjust a segment by a simple side glance, or uh, a head nod. We also have six players behind us: three horns and a rhythm section. And our boys have been with us for a very long time. And what’s really fun is… you see I’ve been with B Street for 15 years, so Sister Swing and B Street has always been integrated. And some subscribers will see me at B Street and recognize me from the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee or the Bar Fly. Something like that.

What songs do you sing?

We sing a lot of Andrew Sisters. We sing a lot of Boswell sisters, which is a group that is less known but actually set the path for the Andrew Sisters. They started the three-part harmony singing group, and the three-part scat. And they were actual sisters so when they would scat, they were like a flock of birds or a school of fish, they just moved together effortlessly. When the Andrew Sisters came along about a decade later, they were hug fans of the Boswell Sisters and paid a lot of tribute to their predecessors. The Andrew Sisters were popular because of radio and of the war, but the Boswell Sisters were the pioneers, and we pay tribute to them; and also the McGuire Sisters, and all of the Motown groups which use three part harmony.

Amy Kelly

I know that you all have a lot of amazing costumes.

That we do.

What’s been one of the more memorable costumes for the band?

One time, we got stuck doing a set at 9:00 in the morning. And we do not do well in the morning. It takes a long time to put on all the make-up and get the hair just right. And so for this show, we wore pajamas. We had bunny slippers on, we had rollers in our hair, and it became a really funny show.

You’ve got to be comfortable on the job.

It’s not a usual luxury. I can relate to our actors who do our Family Series matinee shows. It can be real tough to wake up and immediately perform and have to throw on crazy make-up or sing your heart out. It definitely isn’t the easiest thing to do.

It can be a bit crazy on the road?

Sometimes you show up at a gig and you have two dresses instead of three. We know that we haven’t arrived at any venue until we’ve done at least one u-turn. There have been a lot of crazy, weird stories. I could go on and on.

Amy Kelly

Why did you decide to sing for B Street’s last show?

I asked my sisters if they would do me the honor of performing for this show. I feel sentimental about this place. And I wanna give it a fun send off. And they’re doing it for me because they know how much I love the B Street Theatre.

Sister Swing will be performing in the Mainstage lobby of the B Street Theatre on Christmas Eve before the matinee production of A Moving Day. There are still four more chances to see the last show at the 2711 B Street location. Call the Box Office and get tickets now. 

 

 

Gandhi: The Father of India @ the Sofia

Since 2002, our Family Series has brought thousands of children from the all over the Sacramento area to the B Street Theatre. For years, Family Series stage was unable to bring in as many children as the theatre wished.  However, the Sofia’s Proscenium Stage, the home of the new Family Series, will be hold three times as many children per show. With a chance to reach out to a larger audience, B Street Theatre decided to focus on a historical figure who’s philosophy and leadership lead to multiple revolutions throughout the world and gave dignity to those who were treated as nothing. Mahatma Gandhi’s story will be the first told on our Family Series stage. Artistic Producer Lyndsay Burch, writer and director of the inaugural production, discusses the play: its beginnings, its process and its importance. 

Theatre Logo

Gandhi! started a year and a half ago when I went to India to assist the National Theatre’s world premiere musical about the life of Gandhi. The Grand Point West Rotary was extremely interested in a theatrical re-telling of Gandhi’s story that was meant for children. They felt that American students should learn about Gandhi’s struggles, his philosophies, and how it can be implemented into present day American lives.  So, once they learned about the project and they knew we wanted to assist, they graciously gave B Street Theatre a grant so I could go to Mumbai, assist in the production, learn how native Indians view this legend and figure how to translate their love of Gandhi for American audiences.

I was there for about six weeks. This was a large production: two and a half hours, about thirty songs, and a cast of about fifty.  It ran ten performances in a 1,200 seat house. I was there from the end rehearsal process, through tech rehearsals preview and the run. It was truly thrilling to watch these audiences respond to Gandhi. He is their founding father. They study him in school and learn much about his life, just as we do about George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.  That production was amazing, and served as the inspiration for our own original musical that will open the Family Series at the Sofia.

Amy Kelly
Water Buffalo Crossing during Lyndsay Burch’s Trip

Our production is much more scaled back then the production in Mumbai. It’s twelve actors (still the largest cast we’ve had in the Family Series), about twenty songs, and runs about an hour and a half. I took the major story points of Gandhi’s life, and his quest for freedom while maintaining non-violence and found a creative, theatrical entry point to introduce Gandhi to children who may not know who he is.

The story is about an American student of Indian descent who is being picked on because of his heritage and getting into fights over it. A wise teacher gives him The Life of Gandhi, and through learning about this man’s life, he sees the value in non-violent practice and the importance of embracing his Indian culture. Gandhi not only influenced India, but influenced important international figures such as Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and others in the fight for international equality.  Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent disobedience served as the example for all of those important movements, and to this day, serves as a symbol for those struggling to be heard.

I wanted to write a show which focused on the humanity of the man. Similar to Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Ghandi! focuses on the Father of India’s struggles in creating this movement which led to India’s freedom and the sacrifices he made to ensure tranquility for his people. Contemporary audiences are eager to learn who these inspirational people truly were: their virtues, their vices, the difficult choices they had to make to change the world.

Amy Kelly

One of the biggest attributes to this show will be its cast. In an effort to make sure our cast was authentic, Dave Pierini and I went to New York and saw many talented Indian actors and American actors of Indian descent. The majority of the cast is either Indian or of Indian descent; and their own connections with this man’s story, their genuine joy in the victories he brought to India is genuine and over-whelming. I wanted American audiences to understand the Indian people’s love for Gandhi. With this cast, B Street audiences will be understand that translation easily.

Gandhi is a new show which offers a story for a variety of ages, including middle school students and high schools students who understand the problems in our world and are looking for inspiration. It’s a fun, bold way to open the Family Series at the Sofia.

Tickets for Gandhi! are available at the B Street Theatre Box Office, as well as every show on the Family Series stage. You also have one more week to check out the last play at the 2711 B Street location. A Moving Day closes Christmas 

Fond Memories: Stephanie Altholz, Kurt Johnson, and Underwear

Elisabeth Nunziato

As we get ready for the move of a lifetime, Company Member Stephanie Altholz with assistance from Kurt Johnson, recalls a moment showcasing B Street Unity using underwear. 

Stephanie: The first Christmas mainstage show I ever did at B Street was called An Almost Perfect Party. It was this big farcical, ya know like, thirteen person cast.  A divorced father is trying to give his mute son a really good Christmas. I played the son.

Kurt: It was an adventure.

(Everyone laughs) 

Stephanie: Kurt Johnson was in it! He played this drunken Irish mover?

Kurt: No…

Stephanie: What were you?

Kurt: I don’t know why I was there at all. I don’t remember. I was hanging out with Dave for some reason.

Stephanie: Yeah! Dave Pierini was a Hasidic Rabbi and Kurt was like his drunken, Irish friend.

Kurt: We were the entertainment…..something like that.

Stephanie: Something… yeah, but it was like a heist. You were trying to get something from my dad. I can’t remember exactly. Greg Alexander played the chef. He did like the…

Kurt: He did the cake.

Stephanie: Yeah, he made the big Christmas Eve cake.

Kurt: He had a couple parts.

Stephanie: SOOO….There was a part in the play where Kurt’s character got super drunk and  bursts out of this door in these like Christmas boxers. They were show boxers with his real underwear underneath. Um, but  one night, he forgot to put on the boxers underneath, so…

Kurt: More than once.

Stephanie: Yeah, more than once, but on THIS particular night he bursts out in these raggedy, like torn tightiey-whitie liek old.. which almost killed me ,it was so funny. And then, not like 5 minutes later, Greg’s character is supposed to burst in, also drunk, and out of solidarity for Kurt, he took off his show boxers and came on in his…..I think they were maroon.

Kurt: Yeah, tightie-maroons!

Amy Kelly

Stephanie: Cast mates at B Street are always  messing with each other, but they’re also there for each other. Our Christmas shows are insane, but they are so fun, particularly when you work with your fellow company members.

A Moving Day runs until Christmas Eve. Come Stephanie, Kurt and a lot of our other brilliant company members in the last show at the 2711 B Street location. 

 

Paragary’s & B Street: A Match Made in Sacramento

Elisabeth Nunziato

In less than a month B Street will officially move to its new home on Capitol and 27th, making us neighbors with one of Sacramento’s best restaurants, Paragary’s. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill unveils the history of this amazing restaurant group, B Street’s history with its owner, and an amazing opportunity for new subscribers this upcoming week.

In 1974, the corner of Capitol & 28th was bordered by a mini-mart and a bar called Fort Sutter.  That changed in 1975, when Randy Paragary (who at the time was already the owner of Ink and The ParaPow Palace)  bought the neighborhood businesses and converted them into two new pubs: the Arbor Bar and Lord Beaverbrook.

In 1983, Lord Beaverbrook’s kitchen got a massive upgrade with Sacramento’s first wood fire pizza oven. The expansion of the kitchen led to a change of name, and in 1983, Paragary’s was officially born. The restaurant was innovative, creating delicious meals and a business model which had not yet existed. Thirty years before Sacramento became the Farm to Fork capital, Paragarys was already purchasing fresh produce from local farms for their ‘California Cusine.’ They were quickly inspiring the Sacramento dining experience. Many chefs who got started in Paragary’s kitchen eventually went on to open their own successful restaurants in Sacramento (Ella, Waterboy, OneSpeed, etc.), and soon, chefs from all over California were talking about the thriving dining experience in Sacramento.

B Street Theatre
Randy Paragary at Lord Beaverbrook in 1976

Randy began opening more restaurants throughout midtown and downtown Sacramento: Centro, Monkey Bar, Cafe Bernardo’s, Berkley Bar, R 15, Wiki Bar, Esquire Grill, all under the Paragary umbrella, and each with its own different aesthetic. His philosophy was simple: creative, inventive, authentic food with a great bar and atmosphere. Eventually, residents of Sacramento were going to his restaurant several times per week. The multi-conceptual construct of the restaurants—and their popularity among city residents—gave the company an opportunity to award the loyalty of their customers. The iEats Reward Program was created as a way to show appreciation, giving frequent diners opportunities to earn reward dollars to use toward meals and drinks.

Randy and Buck Busfield (B Street’s Co-Founder & Artistic Director) first met in 1991, when B Street Theatre first opened its doors. He quickly became a subscriber and eventually a member of B Street Theatre’s Board of Directors. “I believe in the product,” Randy said. “It’s first rate. Some of the best theatre I’ve ever seen was at the B Street.”

Talk Back Guest
The B Street Theatre in the 1990’s

Randy was there when Buck first unveiled his dream of creating a brand new theatre, before any site had been secured. He has seen a cornucopia of design drafts, heard a million ideas, and has assisted the theatre tremendously in realizing the dream that now is the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts. So, it would make sense that our two businesses would work together. Particularly since we’ll now be neighbors.

Amy Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Randy and Buck believe business should be about creating the best experience possible for each individual person. It is why both businesses have continued to grow.  After the Sofia opens in February, Paragary’s will begin construction on a new hotel right next door. The Sacramento Staycation could become one of the most delightful experiences for residents from Roseville, Grass Valley, Granite Bay… even Midtowners who just want a night of crazy fun. A night of great food, great theatre, and a relaxing bed in a beautiful new hotel. The future is bright for Sacramento. And when local businesses like ours work together, it is the patron that ultimately wins.

If you aren’t a subscriber for the B Street Theatre yet, we invite you to become one.. Drop by 2711 B Street, see our world premiere production, A Moving Day, and learn more about Paragary’s iEat Rewards Flash Sale.

Jack Gallagher and Dave Pierini Have A Game Show!

Amy Kelly Amy Tara Stephanie

On Sunday December 10, two of B Street’s most popular performers, Dave Pierini and Jack Gallagher, preview a game show to be produced at the Sofia. It’s Called You Better, You Better, You Bet. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill discloses the finer points behind the shows’ inception and where it will go from here.

Jack Gallagher has hosted two games in his life. One was in Boston so long ago that the name of it has been forgotten. The other one was in Los Angeles in 1999 entitled Versus, where two distinctly different groups competed in trivia (i.e. Skateboarders vs. Police Officers). The game show didn’t work out and Jack continued performing comedy and writing in LA and Sacramento.

Jack started his professional career as a comedian in the early 80s. He opened in popular Comedy Clubs such as Comedy Connection, Stitches, and the infamous Ding-Ho Comedy Club. He then moved to Los Angeles where he started as a regular at The Improv. He went on to be in a multitude of television shows such as Cheers and Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO. Gallagher has appeared on shows such as The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, as well as Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He won a NATPE IRIS award in the category of “On Camera Talent.” Jack and his family moved to Sacramento in 1987 and he spent a lot of time traveling from Sacramento to LA and back. It was in 1998 that Jack brought his first one man show, Letters to Declan, to the B Street Theatre after a successful run in LA. Six one man shows later, Jack has become a popular regular at the B Street Theatre, engaging our audiences in conversations about aging, lack of common sense, and family life—all the while making patrons laugh.

It was a few months back that Jack approached Dave and asked if he’d be interested in co-hosting a game show. “It seemed like a fun idea,” Jack said, “I’ve done a couple of game shows in the past, and I just thought it’d be a nice fit for the new theatre. Dave’s one of the funniest people I know and I figured it’d be a good time to team up and create something together.”

It is not the first time they have paired up. Jack was the first person Dave called up to be guest on  B Street Theatre’s talk show Sac Town Tonight. And Dave was featured on Jack’s podcast 5 Songs, which later became his fifth one man show at B Street.

“It was a really casual thing,” Dave remembers. “He told me that we’d base it off of Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life, and that’d we’d just have a lot of fun with the audience. And I knew, between the two of us, we’d be able to come up with a great amount of jokes.”

The show would be called, You Better, You Better, You Bet, after the song written by The Who.  “I’m a big fan of Peter Townsend,” Gallagher comments, “the title seemed just right.”

Originally the show was intended to open in the Sofia. However, Dave and the B Street Theatre thought it’d be good to hold one preview in the 2711 B Street location to see how audiences responded.

Within 24 hours, the show was completely sold out. “It shows how much our audiences love Jack,” Pierini comments.  An added performance was a given. There are still about 35 tickets left for the 9:00 pm performance. Not only will there be a ton of laughs, but prizes will be given out to winners like DVD’s of Jack’s one man shows, T-shirts, and free tickets to B Street. So come down this Sunday to see Sacramento’s funniest men and their game show.

You Better, You Better, You Bet will be this Sunday December 10. Tickets for the 7:00 show are sold out but the 9:00 show still has about 40 tickets left. Call the box office at (916)443-5300 to get your tickets now. 

Fond Memories: Famous Audiences for Fantasy Theatre

Amy Kelly

Company member Rick Kleber remembers the early days of the Fantasy Theatre, and two audiences in particular that brought a little theatre into the spotlight.

I first met Buck doing a production of The Pirates of Penzanze in 1982. We were carpool buddies and had an absolutely great time. In 1986, while I was performing at a dinner theatre in Omaha, Nebraska, Buck gave me a call and asked if I’d be interested in joining a traveling children’s theatre which he called Fantasy Theatre.

The beginning of that theatre was fun and crazy. I stayed with Buck and Tim in an apartment on D and 20th. We rehearsed at a Methodist Church on J and 21st on the second story. Our set was a three-foot-high wall that weighed at least thirty pounds and took at least thirty minutes to set up. We had a boom box that supplied musical accompaniment and began each show with a Steely Dan instrumental called, “St. Louis Purples.” We wore these  brightly colored, long sleeved, brushed velour costumes that resembled something from the TV show, Lost in Space. They were insanely hot. I definitely remember the heat.

In our second season of Fantasy Theatre, Tim had landed a lead role in the TV show Thirty Something. He was acting in LA and writing our next show entitled, Fantasy Americana at the same time. He obviously had no time to travel to Sacramento every day. So our cast traveled to Los Angeles and rehearsed in the second annex of the Mark Taper Forum. Tim would finish taping and then he’d hustle over and direct our show. Our first preview audience turned out to be the cast of Thirty Something, just before we drove back to Sacramento to begin the run. No pressure at all.

B Street Theatre

Fantasy Theatre continued to grow. In its third season, we had an official office in Midtown. We had a raked stage with entrances and exits (still weighed an awful lot).  Dan Palazzi, one of the actors, was also an accomplished musician and composed the show’s music onto a floppy disk. We began carrying around a desktop computer and monitor, and the stage manager would slide in a floppy disk anytime a song had to be played. A few of my favorite memories was when the computer wouldn’t work and we had to sing the entire show a cappella.

Tim was at the zenith of his career, so he was trying to get as much publicity about the Fantasy Theatre that he could. During the run of our second show of the third season, Fantasy Theatre vs Shakespeare, Buck and Tim took us down to Beverly Hills to do a public Performance at the Canon Theatre. He would get us news coverage on national and local Los Angeles news stations and would invite a lot of celebrities and their families to see us. In the audience that day was Tom Hanks and his family, the cast of Thirty Something, the cast from Revenge of the Nerds and others. Again, no pressure at all.

It ended up being a great success. It brought a lot of exposure to the theatre. And for myself, I ended up signing with an agent in LA and was in both Hook starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman, and Ghost with Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg.  All thanks to the Busfield boys. And thirty years later, B Street is moving into a brand spanking new place. I miss the old days. It was like the Old West in a way. But, I can tell you, no one deserves a beautiful new home more than the B Street.

B Street Theatre

Rick Kleber is currently starring in a holiday documentary entitled, ‘Tis the Season, available on Amazon. A Moving Day runs until December 24 and tickets for One Man, Two Guvnors, and the entire 2018 Family Series are available to the public at bstreettheatre.org