The Cast of Gandhi Sings!

blog

A variety of musical talent will be on the stage for the first production in the Sutter Theatre for Children. We thought it’d be fun to preview these singers who will lend their talents to our world premiere production of Gandhi!  while also discovering where they found their love of singing. 

Danish Farooui

I was raised on South Asian classical music as well as American pop. I would imitate my favorite artists for fun. In high school I would sing for our cultural events and that’s how I got on stage and that led to acting and theatre.

 

Hunter Henrickson 

My parents are both singers and have been all throughout their lives and it’s how they paid their bills when they were younger! They sang in theme parks, bands, cruise ships, for weddings, you name it! Hearing their stories, watching them sing, and listening to recordings of them from their early days inspired me to begin learning. It just so happened to be at the same time I starting forming an interest in theatre, so the two passions eventually merged into one as I began pursuing opportunities in musical theatre!

 

Olivia Abiassi

I started singing when I was in second grade in my school choir and eventually in my church choir! As you can see, singing is something that has been ingrained in me from the beginning. I have found so much joy in singing because I associate it with childhood, family, and freedom. There are certain songs that I sing that are memory recall to certain locations, people, and walks in life. In high school, I was in the school choir and I saw that there were auditions for the school play and thought I would give it a shot. Little did I know I would also fall for acting as well. I started a career in theatre because I fell in love with portraying real life onstage rather than extravagant singing, choral music, and dancing onstage. I love what I do and I am blessed to be a part of an amazing group of artists in the musical, Ghandi!

David Crane 

It was my senior year studying musical theatre at UCLA, which is a wonderful and rigorously intense program. The stress had taken its toll on my voice. I was so obsessed with sounding good that it physically hurt to sing. I was convinced that my voice had been permanently damaged and that I had no future as a singer. In my first voice lesson back from the summer, I shared my fears and anxieties with my voice teacher Jeremy Mann. He calmly listened to my neurotic freak out and then said, “Okay, why don’t we do some singing and see what’s going on?” After a few exercises and scales, he said that he couldn’t hear anything wrong with my voice, and then gave me a true gift, “I think what we need is to remind you of the joy of singing. So your assignment from here on out is to sing, every day, in your room, the car, the shower—not for an assignment or grade—and start reclaiming the reason you love singing in the first place!” I did as he told me and it transformed my voice and my whole relationship to singing!

 

Meetu Chilana 

I remember hating my parents for pushing me to learn Indian classical hymns at the Sikh temple. But even at five years old, I did have a knack for performing them and was encouraged by the whole community to do so. Fast forward to 4th grade music class where we learned about Mariah Carey’s five octave range- hers was the first album I ever bought, learning every song front and back. I joined the school choirs and when it was time for the coveted 8th grade play, I got a solo! Man that felt good! From then, I auditioned for every play and musical offered in high school and eventually decided to jeopardize my future career as a doctor by auditioning for NYU’s theater program. Well, I got in and never looked back.

Tickets for Gandhi! are still available. Contact our Box Office and see this world premiere musical at the beautiful Sutter Theatre for Children.

 

 

Advertisements

California Groundbreakers & B Street Theatre

Blog

blog

 

In 2015, Vanessa Richardson, a recent transplant from the bay area, began California Groundbreakers, an organization which facilitates conversations and talk back panels about the status of Sacramento and California. In December, B Street Theatre hosted California Groundbreaker’s Pop Up Panel on young restaurant owners in Sacramento. Today, we’ll be hosting another one, a profile on Can-Can Cocktails founder Ryan Seng. Sean Patrick Nill sat down with Vanessa to talk about the origins of California Groundbreakers and it’s plans for the future. 

Sean Nill: What is California Groundbreakers?
Vanessa Richardson: Officially, we call ourselves a civic-engagement organization that is nonprofit and non-partisan. But in plain English, we put together “cocktail conversations” with people doing groundbreaking things statewide in all types of areas and industries — from the arts to agriculture, the environment to higher education, and politics to pot-growing. We hold them in fun venues, like the old B Street Theatre site last year and the new Sofia this weekend . . . and there’s always drinks. It’s the antithesis of a lunchtime seminar at the Sheraton Ballroom C. The goal is to get people to talk, learn, ask questions, get inspired and mingle with each other face-to-face instead of always through social media and computer/smartphone screens.
SN: How did it come about here in Sacramento? 
VR: I attended an event like these at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, which has done these things regularly since 1903 — they’re total pros. I enjoyed it so much, I joined the Club’s board and started organizing some of the events. When I moved back to Sacramento (I’m a Rio Americano grad), I thought the time was right for this place to have something similar to the C-Club. After all, we’re the capital of the 5th-6th largest economy in the world, a lot of things are happening right on our doorstep. So there are lots of conversations to have. And while there’s plenty of food and drink options in town, I think we need to add more cultural talks and conversation — with cocktails, of course — to the mix.
SN: What have been some exciting conversations that you have moderated through California Groundbreakers?
VR: The first event we did, “The State of the Arts Scene in Sacramento” back in June 2016 at Beatnik Studios, was amazing. I expected maybe 50 people to show, but around 250 people came, and the panel  — artists Gioia Fonda and Bryan Valenzuela and Andru Defeye, and Brickhouse Gallery owner Barbara Range among them — was fantastic. It was a great kick-off for what we wanted to do regularly. We did a “Policy and a Pint” discussion about marijuana legalization last year at Ruhstaller Beer’s former downtown taproom location, and it was another big audience turnout for a fun and informative discussion. (Ruhstaller owner J-E Paino, who regularly pours his beers at our events, was so impressed, he joined our Board of Directors.) Last month’s conversation, “Local Chefs with Michelin-Star Skills” at CLARA, was also a big draw. Chefs Brad Cecchi of Canon and Scott Ostrander of soon-to-open Origami Asian Grill were so funny and insightful, I don’t think people minded so much that the food ran out. A personal favorite of mine was the “Brewmasters” talk we held last October at Raphael Delgado’s art studio. We got the just-retired brewmaster of Sierra Nevada Brewing — Steve Dresler, considered a demi-god of beer — in conversation with Mike Mraz, a young whippersnapper brewmaster who makes amazing Belgian-style beers. I became a total beer lover after hearing them discuss the art of their craft. We’ve had 26 events so far, and the good news is you can still listen to them — we record the majority of our events as podcasts on iTunes and Soundcloud.  And our 25th event is the first to be on film — Capitol Weekly came to record our “Sexual Harassment at the State Capitol” discussion last month for its “Politics on Tap” television program. More of that is a goal of ours going forward.
SN: How did you become affiliated with the B Street Theatre? Why is this a good partnership for Sacramento?
VR: I’ve gone to B Street Theatre productions since I was a kid, I always liked the former space, and I was excited for the new Sofia. When I reached out to ask about holding events there, I was really happy to get a quick response and a yes.The first “Swanky Saturday” discussion we held there last fall was so much fun, as was the holiday party we co-hosted together. You guys rock! I love plays because of the great dialogue and characters you hear and see on stage. I think our events are similar in that we find interesting people with great stories, and it always involves great dialogue and conversations between the people on stage and the people in the audience.
blog
SN: What will Saturday night’s event be about? Who will be your special guest? 
VR:We’re doing a monthly series called “Food for Thought,” about people who are doing groundbreaking stuff in our local Farm to Fork efforts, and in California food, drink and agriculture (the Chefs and the Brewmasters mentioned above were part of that series).
One of those groundbreakers is Ryan Seng. He helped kick off the craft cocktail scene here in Sacramento when he ran the bar program at Grange in the Citizen Hotel. Now he’s being equally innovative as an entrepreneur who founded Can Can Cocktails — which are essentially cocktails in a can, and delicious one that still have the “craft” attached to them. The good thing about Saturday’s event is we can drink Ryan’s cocktails while we talk with him, since you sell them at your bar.
SN: What are some exciting conversations you’ll be having in the future through California Groundbreakers? 
VR: We’re doing more “Food for Thought” events — the next one, on February 26 at CLARA, is a look at Immigration Issues in the Central Valley, viewing it through the lens of Farm-to-Fork, and how all the current turmoil is impacting California’s food supply.
And because it’s an Election Year, we’re also going to do a whole bunch more of “Policy and a Pint” events, which focus on state politics and policy issues. The lineup this month and next are:
1) how is California doing in being a good place to run a business in;
2) affordable housing initiatives, which will inevitably be on the ballot in Novembera
3) how the Election 2016 aftermath is inspiring more women to run for office in 2018, and how that’s playing out specifically here in California.
We also want to do more “in conversation with” events with big-name celebrities locally and statewide. We’re working on a few right now, and one of them is Governor Jerry Brown, who I think would be great to get on stage with a microphone in hand for a conversation at year’s end, when he’s about to leave office. So now that I said that publicly, I have no choice but to make sure that event is going to happen.
Blog
California Groundbreakers will be at the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts this Saturday at 8:00 PM before the 9:00 showing of One Man, Two Guvnors. Come and engage in an active conversation about Sacramento. Tickets are running out for our already extended production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Go to bstreettheatre.org and buy your tickets today 

Noah Agruss: Music Man of B Street

Noah Arguss

Since 2004, Noah Agruss has been composing music for the B Street Theatre and was an integral factor in opening the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts, music directing One Man, Two Guvnors and composing the music for B Street’s World Premiere musical, Gandhi! Acting Intern Olivia Schaperjohn took some time to talk with Noah about his collaborations with the theatre and also about his father, Mitch, who was a beloved actor on the B Street stage. 

How long have you been collaborating with B Street Theatre?

Noah Agruss: My first job in Sacramento was through Greg Alexander. I met with him and my dad (Mitch Agruss), and Dennis Wilkerson from California Stage about composing music for The Phantom Tollbooth. That wasn’t at B Street but that was my  first introduction to a lot of the Artstic staff and company members, and I got to know Greg very well. And after The Phantom Tollbooth, Greg approached me and asked if I would compose his production of A Year with Toad & Frog. That was my first show at the B Street, and I got to work with John Lamb, and Peter Story, and Rick Kleber.

What’s has been your favorite show that you’ve written?

Bars & Measures. The story was Buck’s idea. He had seen a newspaper article about two brothers who were both musicians with differing religious beliefs, and he thought it’d be the perfect story for Idris Goodwin to write. It was quite an extraordinary collaboration. And then with the Children’s Theatre, I loved writing Hansel & Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin with John Lamb was really awesome.

Blog
Bars & Measures at B Street Theatre

How does it feel to be involved in the first two shows at the Sofia? (As Music Director for One Man, Two Guvnors and Composer for Gandhi!)

It’s a dream. It’s other-worldly. It hasn’t really settled in yet for me.; to be in this huge space, to have everything you need, separate rehearsal halls, able to work on multiple things in different rooms and not bother Buck or Jerry or Dave. It’s really something else.

What would your father have thought about all of this? 

He’d be overwhelmed. He was particularly grateful to the audiences here at B street for their support. He would have been tremendously proud of how this community worked together to build something this beautiful. I mean, the first 30 years of his career were on the East Coast, and then he moved here, and he did some acting on children’s television, but when he came back to the stage, particularly at B Street, it was for the love of the theatre. And he loved every minute of it. And he really appreciated that Buck always wrote roles for him in his Christmas shows. He loved this place, and he would’ve been so happy for his success.

Blog Pic

What excites you most about B Street’s future? 

I’m looking forward to more theatre magic here at B Street Theatre. I really don’t know how Buck does it. He does this thing, I’ve seen it many times, but he’ll come in to see a preview of a show (that he isn’t directing), and he’ll give about 15 minutes worth of notes, leave as if he were just passing through, and something magical happens. It’s like he left fairy dust onstage and the show just comes to life in a way I couldn’t imagine. I wasn’t really a part of that theatre magic growing up, that was my dad’s thing, but I love it now. I can’t wait to tell more stories with these people.

Noah’s original musical Gandhi!, written with Lyndsay Burch begins previews this next Tuesday, February 20th. Get your tickets now at bstreettheatre.org. Also, if you want to see One Man, Two Guvnors, musically directed by Noah, get your tickets now as seats are going quickly. 

The Week the Sofia Opened

Elisabeth Nunziato

From January 29th through February 2nd, the B Street Theatre staff was beyond busy, prepping to open the doors of our new home to the public. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill remembers all of the amazing moments, the wacky details, and the spectacular fashion in which the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts opened its doors. 

During the week before opening (January 22 through January 28th), a lot of people were bustling around in the hallways of the Sofia, unpacking boxes, hanging lights, building a set, while also preparing the lobby. Every night, Lyndsay Burch and Tara Sissom would bring in boxes, full of parts that would become chairs and tables. The clock was against us. In less than a weeks time, the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts would be open to the public. It had to be perfect.

On Tuesday January 29th, at 7:30 in the morning, B Street staff and interns met with Danielle Roe and Rachel Smith and immediately went to work: putting up tables in Gallery A and Gallery C for caterers, sweeping the front stoop, setting up the ribbon for cutting.

The event officially began at 11:00 AM, with most guests arriving around 10:00 AM to get an early look at the new building. Donors, long time subscribers, representatives of Sutter Health, Vice Mayor Steve Hansen, Mayor Darrel Steinberg, and, of course, the Tsakopolous Family huddled outside the door on a chilly, but sunny January morning.  Around 11:08 AM, Buck Busfield, long time Artistic Director, stepped onto a stage in front of the theatre and began the list of thank yous, a list which as he said, “Was long, but beyond important.”  Mayor Steinberg, stepped up and said it best, “Art, entertainment, and culture is essential in realizing all of the dreams that we want realized as a city.”

The entire cast of One Man, Two Guvnors, the entire cast of Gandhi!, along with Jamie Jones, Julia Brothers, Dana Brooke, and other long time company members gleamed as Buck proclaimed, “It is our actors that have made this theatre so very special. It is our actors that have made you laugh, made you cry, and created a place that adults and children alike can share a fun, collective experience.”

Around 11:30 AM, Buck, along with Sofia Tsakopolous herself and other important members of the project, grabbed the humongous pair of scissors and opened the doors to Sacramento’s new premiere Art’s Complex.

Watching patrons walk through the lobby of the Sofia was like watching children walk through Disneyland for the first time.

“I can’t believe it’s here,” one patron said, “I just… it seems like we’ve been waiting a hundred years, and now… I can’t find the words.”

For two and a half hours, the halls of the Sofia were filled with these joyous adults, all having invested something in the B Street Theatre, all having believed that this building would better Sacramento.

While this was happening, two shows were in rehearsal: Gandhi! and One Man, Two Guvnors, the latter preparing for their first performance in front of an audience. The night of the first preview, shot glasses were handed out along with memorabilia programs and custom made “Sofia” wrist bands. Angelo and Sofia Tsakopoulos, along with many members of their family were in attendance. Different staff members had volunteered to show patrons to the bathrooms, to the different galleries, handing out programs, making sure that the first audience saw familiar faces.

Dave Pierini-Program Image

Five minutes after the show began, the laughs roared from the theatre. The show was obviously a hit. But work still had to be done. That same night, Lyndsay Burch was making notes, seeing what else needed to be done to make the lobby the best experience possible. Lights were added to the Coat Check. Twelve more chairs were added to the lobby near the bar. Tasks were added to pre-show preparations.

The three previews of One Man, Two Guvnors were full of constant evaluations, all in preparation for the Friday night gala. On Thursday afternoon,  an ETC colorsource LED Ellipsoidal light was placed in the corner of the second story lobby, reflecting a beautiful array of light on the main wall next to the box office. On February 2nd, around 1:30 PM, Danielle and Rachel returned, and began setting up tables and chairs in Gallery A and Gallery B along with eleven custom made for color glass gobos. These lighting instruments illuminated the eleven different shows that B Street was producing for the inaugural season in the Sofia. We had come a long way from the theatre next to the rail road tracks. It was a beautiful spectacle, celebrating a night we would all remember.

The gala began at 5:30 in the afternoon. U.S. Air Guitar: Sacramento set up in the Pam & Steve Eggert Courtyard and rocked out the entire night with different patrons, promoting the upcoming production of Airness in May. The caterers distributed snacks celebrating each of the eleven shows: Roast Beef for One Man, Two Guvnors, doughnuts and pastries for The Legend of Georgia McBridetraditional Polish treats for Ironbound, shish kabobs for Treasure Island. 

Amy Kelly

The theatre opened at 7:00 PM, and Buck walked onstage, joined by Senator Doris Mastsui, and California Assembly Member Dr. Richard Pan, who conveyed the steps that were taken which assured the Sofia would become a reality. After one more humble thank you, Buck stepped offstage, and One Man, Two Guvnors officially opened.

The rest of the night was full of celebratory drinks and laughs. We had done it. The Theatre was opened. The show was opened. All of the meetings and plans had come to fruition.

I was sitting next to Lyndsay Burch just before the show ended, both of us exhausted and relieved.

“We did it, Lyndsay,” I told her.

“We have two more shows tomorrow, Sean,” she told me, “The work is just beginning.”

The work never ends. We are always looking for new ways to create a great night of fun for our patrons. The Sofia is now open. One Man, Two Guvnors has already extended. But we are ready for the tasks before us, to make sure the Sofia is more than just a beautiful building. That it is a center of artistic growth, cultural enlightenment, and amazing entertainment.

The Party only gets better from here.

Amy Kelly

The Sofia is officially open. One Man, Two Guvnors has already extended until March 12. Tickets are available online at bstreettheatre.org. Come experience this hysterical play in our beautiful new home.