The Return of Melinda Parrett

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Melinda Parrett, B Street Acting Company Member who starred in Ladies Foursome and 39 Steps, returns after a two year absence to discuss her time with B Street, her time away, and her excitement for Dry Powder, and the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts.

Melinda Parrett: (In high squeaky voice) Hiiiiiiiiiiiiyyyyyyeeee!!!!!

Sean Patrick Nill: When was the last time you were at B Street? 

Spinning Into Light, the holiday show in 2015.

Where have you been?

I’ve been acting with Utah Shakespeare Festival for the past two summers, which is a six month contract in beautiful south Utah?

Lots of hiking? 

Oh yes! It’s Zion country. It’s one of those contracts where you’re working, but you feel like it’s a vacation. It’s a wonderful place.

So what brought you back?

Well, I love Sacramento. It’s my hometown. My family still lives here and I love being near my family. And I love B Street, and I wanted to be a part of this new journey for them, and I’m really excited to be in the second show on the Mainstage. It’s a beautiful space for a theatre that’s deserved a home like this for a long time.

Being from Sacramento, when did you first hear about B Street?

When I was young, I did a lot of musical theatre. But one day, when I was in my 20s,  I saw a show at B Street with a friend of mine… it was either Escanaba in Da Moonlight or Cloud Techtonics. I think it was Cloud Techtonics. But I remember liking the show. And so I went to college and I learned how to… you know… act. I started doing more straight plays. And I was actually hanging out with Elisabeth Nunziato one day after shooting a film of hers, and she told me that B Street was seeing actors for their upcoming play. And I auditioned.. .and… then I was in 39 Steps.

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Where you played all the women?

And Amy Kelly played all the men…

(Both Melinda and Sean laugh) 

And so what shows followed after that? 

I came back to do Rx. And then I did Robyn is Happy with Amy and Elisabeth. That play ended with my character in a prosthetic hand.

Cool…

I thought so. And then I did Elemeno Pea, Wrong for Each Other, Ladies Foursome, and Spinning Into Light. So Dry Powder is my eighth show.

Any really fond memories of those shows? 

Most of them happened with Amy Kelly in the dressing room. Just being idiots in the dressing rooms taking selfies for Snapchat and Instagram. She has a whole album on her Facebook called “Amy and Melinda’s Acting Portfolio” which is just me and her being silly. There’s a lot of great memories over all the shows I’ve done.

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What do you think of the Sofia?

Oh… it’s gorgeous. It’s… GOR… GEE…OUS! It’s efficient. It’s functional. It’s exactly what this theatre company has earned.

Do you miss 2711 B Street at all? 

I miss the train. I’m the only company member that’ll say that. But it was another character in the play. And the way the audiences reacted to it… it was really fun. And that place taught me how to act in a different way. The intimacy was so innate that… I had to talk in a realistic way. And I’m happy that this Mainstage has that similar intimacy, it makes the shows here so real and entertaining for the audiences.

So what are the joys and challenges of performing Dry Powder? 

It’s a great play. And Sarah Burgess has opened up the world of Wall Street that many Americans have never been introduced to. And Jenny, my character… she’s not a bad person, but all she cares about is winning, how she can win, and when she’ll win. I don’t think it’s about the money for her because she doesn’t do anything with it, it’s just about winning. It’s a real fun play. It’s such a play for this time. I, Melinda, needed a dramaturgy packet for the dramaturgy packet for this play. This world is not a part of my daily life, and I learned a ton, more than I ever had to for contemporary plays.

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How does it feel to be a member of this acting company? 

Well, it’s amazing to be included in this time for B Street. This facility is just amazing, and the energy around it is intoxicating. And it’s so rare to be a part of an acting company where you can always come back, where you are always a part of the family. It means a lot to me. It’s hard to find work as an actor consistently. And to have a company that’s always looking out for me, that’s always giving me opportunities, that challenges me, where I learn… it’s really special.

Some Fun Questions:

Where’s your favorite place to eat in Sacramento?

Lou’s Sushi. I’m a vegan…you can tell them that… and the vegan scene is getting better here in Sacramento and Lou’s offer’s vegan sushi that is… so good… and I love Pushkin’s. It’s an awesome bakery.

I know your a fan of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Who are you rooting for this season?

Monet Exchange… I’ve seen her in LA, and she’s an amazing performer. I hope she’s able to do what she does well on the show. Also Mayhem Miller. I’m a big fan.

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And finally, when things go right, what do you do to celebrate?

I got to Disneyland. Even when things go wrong, I go to Disneyland.

Come see Melinda Parrett in our upcoming production of Dry Powder, opening Friday March 30th. Tickets are available online at bstreettheatre.org.

 

 

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Sarah Burgess, “Dry Powder”, and their Journey to the Stage

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Sarah Burgess, Playwright of Dry Powder

Dry Powder opened at the Public Theatre with a splash, featuring an all-star cast and an all-star director. However, the playwright, Sarah Burgess was an unknown name to many audiences.  In this blog, we dive into her story and how she went from a tutor to an Off-Broadway playwright. 

In 2015, Sarah Burgess, the playwright of Dry Powder, had not gotten a single play produced by a professional theatre company. She had taken part in many development workshops and playwriting collectives, but she had not received the one thing a playwright needs to start a career: a production credit. Having graduated from NYU in the mid 2000’s, Burgess earned money by tutoring those about to take graduate admission tests. Many of her clients were employees of Wall Street investment firms like Goldman Sachs. This was her first exposure to the world of high finance.

“I was fascinated by the culture of the place,” she says in an interview with the Washington Post. “The idea of moral responsibility and the human consequences of the bankers’ complex and abstract business transactions seemed vibrant ones for a play.” For Christmas that year, she asked her father for Barbarians at the Gate, the story behind the 1988 leveraged buyout which conveyed much of Wall Street’s culture and inner workings. She began working on the play, and soon submitted it to several different theatre companies throughout the country.

Oskar Eustis is the Artistic Director of the Public Theatre in New York, one of the most respected theatre companies in the country. He discovered Burgess’ play on a pile of unproduced scripts. Often these scripts are instantly discarded, but  Dry Powder was a rare exception.

“For me it happens once a decade,” Eustis explains, “But I read her play and immediately said, ‘We’re producing this.”

Burgess’ first professional production not only took place at the premiere off-Broadway venue in New York, but also featured a superb creative team. Eustis hired Thomas Kail, the acclaimed director of musicals like Hamilton and In the Heights to the stage the play.  Kail then hired Emmy Award winning actors Hank Azaria (THE SIMPSONS), Claire Danes (HOMELAND), and John Krasinski (THE OFFICE) to star as the heads of a private equity firm in the middle of a PR disaster.

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Off-Broadway Production of Dry Powder 

“There are many things about this production that are not typical for a first-time writer,” commented Sarah Burgess.

That is because Dry Powder is not a typical play. It tells the story of KMM Capital Management, a fictional private equity firm in Manhattan going through a PR disaster. The same week his company forced massive layoffs at a national grocery chain, Rick Hannel threw himself an extravagant engagement party, leading to damning editorials and friction with investors. Fortunately, Seth, one of Rick’s partners, has a dream of a deal to invest in an American-made luggage company for cheap that will rescue his boss from the PR disaster. But Jenny, Rick’s other partner, has an entirely different plan: to maximize returns, no matter the consequences. Dry Powder shows the inner workings of Wall Street, the moral dilemma of capitalism in the 21st century, and the real cost of getting the deal done.

For Buck Busfield, Artistic Director of B Street, the play reaches a human level that some may overlook.” Dry Powder is not about business or morality.  It is about people. People with ambitions, values and frailties all vying for different things.”

“It’s an electric play,” Dave Pierini, Artistic Producer, comments. “It has such great wit and delves deeply into the different characters within private equity.”

Just like One Man, Two Guvnors, the  cast of Dry Powder is completely composed of  members of the B Street Acting Company. Look below to see which company members you’ll see next on the B Street stage:

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Melinda Parrett will star as Jenny
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Dave Pierini will star as Rick
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Jason Kuykendyall will star as Seth
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Jahi Kearse will star as Jeff

Tickets are available for Dry Powder. Call the Box Office and grab your tickets now to see this electric new play running from March 27th to April 29th. 

The Story of Peter Story

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Long time Company Member Peter Story has returned to the B Street to star in the inaugural production at the Sofia, One Man, Two Guvnors. His performance as the hungry servant Francis Henshall has received acclaim throughout the Sacramento area. As One Man, Two Guvnors gets ready to close, Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill sat down with Peter to discuss his relationship with B Street and his time as Francis. 

Where are you from and how did you end up a B Street?

Peter Story: I’m originally from Oklahoma. I’m a multi-generational Okie. And I went to college at the University of Evansville in Indiana becasue they had a great theatre program. And one of the opportunities we had as students is to audition for the South Eastern Theatre Conference, which brings in a plethora of summer stock companies and year round professional companies. I went just to get a summer stock gig. I was planning on going to Grad School. I was not interested in any year long internship. So, I went in for my audition where 50 or 60 different companies were all waiting. And as I’m about to go up,  I spotted Timothy Busfield. I recognized him from 30something and from Field of Dreams. It was the first celebrity I ever saw in person. And after my initial audition, he pointed to me and gave me a thumbs up, which was a huge deal for me. He gave me a call back. And I went to the call back with no expectation of taking an internship. I just wanted to meet this celebrity.

You wanted the story?

Exactly. And 45 minutes later, he talked me out of my grad school plans, talked me into leaving everything behind, and coming to Sacramento to work at this theatre for 10 months for free. And he said, “If you don’t suck, and you work hard, you could end up with an equity card. And if you’re really lucky, you may get a shot on the Main Stage.

What did you do after the Internship?

I went straight to Chicago. I thought that Chicago was going to be where I would spread my roots. But within a couple of months, Buck asked me to come back to be in Lilly’s Plastic Purse, which was the inaugural production for the Family Series back in 2002. And that started a non-stop pattern of doing 2 or 3 shows a year for the next 10 years. And after I Underpants, I was offered a spot as a member of the Acting Company, which… just meant the world to me.

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What’s a show that you’ve done at B Street that really sticks out for you?

The Underpants; the show led to a lot of things for me. I know specific jobs I got because of that show. I learned a ton, and I got to kind of spread my wings in my first lead role at B Street. People still talk to me about that show today, even after seeing One Man, Two Guvnors. It was just… an absolute blast.

You’ve been in LA for how many years now?

15 years now. I’m down there with my wife Megan and our adorable dog Panda.

How did you all meet?

We met here. She was an intern with Tara Sissom. B Street’s has had more than one impact on my life.

What type of work are you doing in LA? 

Television, teaching, webisodes. But I mean, once again it comes back to Tim Busfield. He was very instrumental in helping me find television work when I first arrived. And that momentum lead to film work and teaching and webisodes. Both Tim and Buck, when B Street really started getting its momentum, wanted to create a stable of actors that they can bring back. And they make sure that we’re taken care of when we’re here, but they’ll also recommend us for other opportunities outside of B Street.

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How much did it mean to you when Buck offered you the role of Francis Henshall?

It meant everything. It meant that all my hard work paid off: from my internship to my small supporting roles to my bigger lead roles. All of that meant something to Buck. He not only liked me, but he trusted me with this role, in this moment when we’re opening a new theatre, when I know Buck wants to start with a splash. It  meant the world that he trusted me with it.  Plus, this is such a great role. Especially for a heavier character actor. There aren’t too many roles like this for my type. In this show, I get too do so much: prat falls, tons of physical comedy, I get to sing, I get to play an instrument. It’s just the best.

What will you take from this experience? 

This company has been there for me time and time again. When my wife, Megan, got sick, Brittni, Amy, Tara, and Stephanie put together this amazing sketch show called, “Nitty, Gritty, Titty Committee” to help us raise money for medical expenses. And not only was it hysterical, but it helped us, in ways most people can’t imagine. This is a home to me, and the fact that they keep giving me opportunities to excel while also helping my family… there’s just no other place like it.

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And as for this moment in time… when I was on tour, I got to go to the most beautiful theaters in the country: Bing Crosby Theatre, Duke Ellington Theatre, etc.. and you walk into these places, and you go backstage or in the green room and you see pictures and names of people who opened these theaters, ya know, famous actors who your remembered from years past. You get to see the plays that started these places. And to have that heritage, to carve my name in this place, to be one of the first actors that bowed on that stage, I’ll always be grateful for that.

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When will B Street audiences see you next?

I’ll be playing Shreddy Eddy in Airness. Come see it, it’s gonna be great!

And you all have one more weekend to come see One Man, Two Guvnors starring Peter Story as Francis Henshall. Tickets are available at the Box Office. Call (916) 443-5300 and get your tickets now. 

Fond Memories: Being in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ at the B Street Theatre

With a one week extension left to go, the cast of One Man, Two Guvnors reminisces on the stories that have made this first show at the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts one to remember. 

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Peter Story: Francis Henshall

This play includes a lot of audience participation. And in one of those instances, a audience member offers me a very strange piece of food. It’s a great joke and sets up another two right afterwards. Dave will often find someone before the show and ask them if they’ll say this one thing during the play. Well, one night, for whatever reason, the selected audience member just froze. I ask, “Does anyone have anything to eat?” And nothing was offered. I was pretty sure the show was ruined, until my former Intern Coordinator at the B Street, who had already seen the show the night before, swooped in and saved the day, reciting the line with perfect projection and articulation. She saved the day. That’s B Street Family for you.

Tara Sissom: Pauline Clench

One of the things on my bucket list is to receive entrance applause. For those of you who don’t know, entrance applause is when an actor (often a celebrity), gets applause simply by entering stage the first time. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to experience and felt that I’d probably never get unless I was at the same theater for about thirty years or became, ya know, a celebrity.

In this play, I’m the first person to enter stage. And on opening night, the second I entered stage, the audience applauded. And I was taken back. I wasn’t sure if people would even recognize me with this blonde wig on my head, but they applauded. It was really touching. It showed all of us all how much our audiences cares. And I got to cross something off my bucket list.

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Jason Kuykendall 

Amy Kelly always makes me break. She’s one of the most committed actors I know, and that commitment can lead to some hysterical moments. In one moment of the play, her character Alfie is delivering a message to Elisabeth’s character Dolly in a… certain way. And one night, for whatever reason, she turned to me and began talking to me as if I were Dolly, her head right in my chest. I instantly put my hand over my mouth and for the rest of the scene had to find some way to keep it together. But that’s always a good problem when you’re doing a comedy.

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Olivia Schaperjohn: Acting Intern/Drummer of ‘The Craze’

So Amy Kelly was singing her song that opens the second act. I’m behind the drum kit, rocking out. And after the guitar solo, I’m supposed to do a big crash on the drums, and I guess I was feeling it a little too much, because I struck the kit so hard that one of my drum sticks went flying in the air, almost grazing Amy Kelly’s cheek (like if she had turned a second later she would’ve gotten smacked in the face), and landing in left side of the house. The audience thought it was the end of the song and loved it so much, they began applauding. It wasn’t until I got my drum stick back, and we began playing the same tune that they realized we had one more verse to do.

John Lamb: Alan Dangle 

The best one was when a piece of the set got stuck on the curtain and we had to do the last scene of the play with only half the set.  It looked like Kurt’s character hadn’t been paying his mortgage and the government had taken half the house as hostage. It was pretty great.

Kurt Johnson: Charlie ‘The Duck’ Clench

Amy was singing a song called “Bangers & Mash” and Tara and I were dancing backstage. And I did a bit too much and decided to do some… squat move… and I ripped the seam of my pants out, like 15 seconds before I had to go onstage. That scene I was standing a bit more upright than usual. I’m happy it was only my clothes that tore, I am 49.

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Jahi Kearse: Lloyd Boateng 

There was a moment at the end of the show that the cast was all onstage together. It had been a long week, I had a cold, and was a bit loopy from the cold medicine I was taking. Amy Kelly, in her wild ways, entered the stage as Alfie. And for some reason, it just tickled me to know how Amy walked onstage. And so while she’s playing an older man, I said, “Alfie, what you doing girl?!” And I just cracked up. And the cast started cracking up. And the audience was watching, thinking to themselves, “What is going on?”

Greg Alexander: Harry Dangle

There’s this champagne bottle we’ve been having problems with. It’s an important prop. I pop just as Alan and Tara’s character begin making out onstage. It’s an alarming sound. It would stop any make-out session in a heartbeat. But some of the time, the champagne is flat so, no big explosion, no sound. It’s a bit deflating. So one day, I go backstage to grab the prop and I’m mumbling something like, “We’ll see if this works.” And just as I say it, the champagne bottle explodes backstage, all over my suit. And so I come back onstage dripping wet, and the cast looks at me like a sad dog, and I say, “Let’s celebrate!”

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Elisabeth Nunziato: Dolly

I had just come from backstage. And while I’m coming from my quick change, I hear my husband, Jason, scream bloody horror (from something Peter did, I don’t know what’s going on out there). And I stopped for a moment and realized, “I had never actually heard that particular sound ever come out of my husband before.” I had never heard a human being in more distress. And it makes me laugh my little head off, even just thinking about it.

Hunter Henrickson: Acting Intern/ Guitar of ‘The Craze’ 

So the band plays four songs before the show: three before the curtain speech, and one, “Brighton Line” that opens the show. And the majority of our songs is played live but that particular song is on a track because it’s choreographed to all the different entrances. And so one night, I hold out the opening notes of “Brighton Line” like I always do, and… there’s no music. So I just… slowly… begin singing the lyrics. It was probably the slowest verse of that song ever performed. And afterwards, there was still no track. And it felt like we were waiting for a long time. I’m sure it was only a second, but it felt like eternity. And suddenly, I hear the clangs of the cymbal from the track and the entire band came in perfectly. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that could’ve been really bad.

Dave Pierini: Gareth

On opening night, Buck Busfield got up and introduced all of the politicians and the lofty officials that had come for the opening of the Sofia. And I stood there, hearing this speech, waiting to take the mic from him, I realized that he’s thanking everyone for making The Sofia come true, but he’s not getting the thanks that he deserves. So I’m coming up with this speech in my head as he finishes his comments, declaring his amazing leadership and his ability to inspire his employees and make the theatre what it is. And when he gave the mic back to me, and I began my speech, the look on his face was so touched, that I got choked up. I could barely finish my speech. I squeaked out the end, “This couldn’t happen without Buck, so let’s thank (squeak) Buck!” And of course he got a standing ovation, and it was a really sweet moment.

Stephanie Altholz: Roscoe Crabbe

Jason and I play romantic partners in this play. And we have pet names for each other that are gender specific. And also a little sexual. Anyway, so one day, we begin our scene, and for whatever reason, Jason calls me by the wrong pet name, his pet name. And so of course, I played along and we switched pet names. But we say those pet names like six times in one scene. So of course, I was laughing constantly, and could barely hold it in.

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Amy Kelly: Alfie 

When we did the first show, and all the actors came onstage, and when each entrance received thunderous applause. Among all these great memories, that was the most magical one. It’s one of the finest stages I’ve acted on. And you can see how happy the audience is that we were here. They might’ve just been a little drunk. But just all that applause, how happy all the actors and the audience members were, that was something special.

One Man, Two Guvnors has been extended until March 11th. Call the Box Office at (916) 443-5300, and book tickets now so you don’t miss your chance to see the best comedy in town!