Meet Arusi Santi: Maks in IRONBOUND

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B Street Theatre is known for its exceptional actors. Making his premiere at the B Street Theatre in Ironbound is the very talented Arusi Santi. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill interviewed the actor on his life, his career, and his time here in Sacramento.

Arsui, where are you from?

Cuernavaca, Mexico. It’s a small town just south of Mexico City.

When did you move to the United States?

I originally moved to the United States for college. I got my BFA in Acting in Minneapolis.

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The Guthrie?

Yeah! I was there four years. And after graduating, I worked in the U.S. for a little bit, and then I decided I wanted to move back to Mexico. So I did, and I did a short stint in soap opera/telenovela acting.

How was that experience?

I didn’t like it honestly.

[Arusi and Sean laugh]

It’s just so different. I just studied classical acting and then immediately going into that world, it’s an entirely different pace. I mean they feed you all your lines. You get the script two hours before you shoot, and they give you an ear piece and then they tell you  your lines.

They tell you all your lines?

They feed you everyone’s lines! It’s super distracting. They have a person just reading the whole script. So, I’m reacting to this little voice in my ear versus the person I’m supposed to be acting with. But they didn’t really care cause they were more interested in just pumping out as many episodes as possible.

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How long did you do that for?

Just one year. That’s all. And then I got back into theatre, and it didn’t really take long for work to start piling up, and I was kind of eager to move back to the United States. So, I moved to San Diego and it’s been great. It’s a wonderful theatre town.

When was the first time you heard about B Street Theatre?

So, my agent came to me and started talking about this production at B Street Theatre. At first I was confused until I realized that I had actually sent an email to you all when you first announced your season. So, I went back to your website and saw all the pictures of this beautiful building and got very excited.

So you’re in Ironbound, which you’ve done before. What’s it like to do this play again?

This is a special script. It’s extremely well-written. I was telling Lyndsay (Burch) how great it is to work on it with different people. You discover new things. The play is completely different for me. And that’s good. It keeps it fresh and exciting, and different themes come through for me.

What are some aspects of your character that you connect with? 

I love that he plays Harmonica, and there is something about Maks’ immigrant story that hits close to home. Being in a place where you don’t feel at home. You go to work or you go to the supermarket, and you feel like you’re an outsider. Maks has this dream of being a blues musician.  I relate to that determination, having that dream push you.

Have you had fun in Sacramento?

Yeah! I love the trees!

What do you hope the audience gets out of this play?

I hope they see themselves reflected in these characters. Particularly with the times we are living in right now,  if you can relate to an immigrant story, relate to the humanity in their story, relate to the struggle, that’s important, and I hope people get that from this show.

Random Questions

What’s your favorite thing to do on a lazy Sunday?

Laundry.

[Arusi and Sean laugh]

It’s important!

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What’s a book you’re reading right now? 

Russian House. I went to the Sacramento Library, and I bet you didn’t know this, but if you sign up for a library card, they give you a book for free.

I do know that.

Oh yeah?

Sacramento Public Library is an educational partner with B Street Theatre.

Well look at that.

What’s a sport you like to watch?

Basketball.

What’s your favorite meal to have? 

Pho. It’s good!

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Come see Arusi Santi in Ironbound, currently in previews and opening Friday, September 28. Tickets are available here. 

 

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B Street Weekly: September 9 – 16

Even when the Mainstage is dark, The Sofia continues to entertain the Sacramento area. This past week, we hosted our first Upstairs at the B Festival and kept the Sutter Stage buzzing with great live music performances. Scroll down to see all of the exciting photos that came out of this past week, and if you want to see more, find us on Instagram or Twitter @bstreettheatre.

Tara Sissom’s play Brother Sister was featured in our Boozy New Play Brunch series this last Tuesday night. It was a great play, full of laughs and sincerity, and we also learned waffles are an acceptable dinner entrée.

The set for Ironbound is being built as we speak. Set at a bust station in the Ironbound District of New Jersey, Samantha Reno shows once again her brilliance as a set designer. Come see the real thing next week when previews for begin.

Myer Sound has revolutionized sound engineering in the American theatre, and we are so proud to have worked with them in creating the best quality sound in The Sofia. If you haven’t seen a concert in the Sutter Theatre, we have five concerts this week!

Maximum Occupancy is the funniest improv show in Sacramento! This past Friday, Dave Pierini, Stephanie Altholz and Dave Pierini cracked us all up with bits about a man falling in love with a dart board, a cursed cruise line, and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. They return this Saturday!

 

Thanks to @floyd.brian for capturing this awesome picture of the talented Todd Snider Sunday night. We are so thankful to these amazing musicians who come to the Sutter Theatre and wow us.

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Rehearsals for Ironbound are up and running. Come see this beautiful story capturing the triumphs and tribulations of a Polish-American immigrant.

John Waite sold out the Sutter Theatre on Saturday night and the show did not disappoint. This legendary musician rocked out and the audience couldn’t have been happier. Thanks to @lifelightphoto for snapping this awesome shot, and come see more concerts at the best music venue in Sacramento.

The Sofia stays plenty busy this week as we are hosting Cris Williamson, Corey Harris & Guy Davis, the Baylor Project, and Ray Wylie Hubbard on the Sutter Theatre stage. Plus, Upstairs at the B will feature The Arlyn Anderson Quartet, Maximum Occupancy, Boozy New Play Brunch, and Poison Boot. Come spend a night at The Sofia.

 

Last Day of Upstairs at the B Festival: Maximum Occupancy

For the past four days B Street Theatre has produced special presentations of our Upstairs at the B programs. Now, on the last day of the Festival, we are happy to showcase the show that opened Upstairs at the B:  Maximum Occupancy. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill interviewed Company Members Stephanie Altholz, Tara Sissom and Dave Pierini to discuss Sacramento’s newest improv hit. 

When did you all start improv?

Stephanie:  I started taking my first improv classes when I was around 12. I was hooked instantly. I never stopped.

Tara: I started improvising when I was 13. I started a club in my High School, eventually started one in college too. I went on to more formal training in 2008 when I moved to Chicago and was deeply entrenched in the iO and Annoyance scene there for 5 years.

Dave: I’d taken classes from various people when I was younger just for fun. But then when Kurt Johnson started teaching, I tried to really learn.

How has improv helped you as an actor? 

D: It’s all about being comfortable on stage and listening. Improv forces you to listen while you’re on stage and not be in your head thinking about the audience, or how to say a line, etc. The same goes for a scripted play. You’re a better actor when you listen.

T: Improv helps me in every aspect of my life, not just acting. It’s taught me to open myself up to opportunity by saying ‘yes’, helped me trust my instincts and gut feelings and also continually teaches me to take care of myself first before trying helping others.

S: Improv is essential for me as an actor. To be in the moment on stage and responding to your partner as organically as possible is what keeps your performance from getting boring after doing it for long stretches of time. It’s also so helpful in the rehearsal room. Being willing to look like a fool, and support your scene partners is what it’s about. It’s how you find those moments you couldn’t possibly have planned by thinking.

Where are some places you’ve trained/performed improv? 

S:  Improv has been a component in every acting class I’ve ever taken in some way or another. But specifically, one of the founders and instructors of the acting conservatory I went to in New York was Paul Sills, who was also one of the founders of Second City. And his mother was, of course, Viola Spolin who basically created “improvisation for the theatre”… she literally wrote the book on it. So all of those theories were the foundation for everything we did at that school. Improv was a part of everything. I also studied at The Groundlings in Los Angeles.

T: iO Chicago (improv Olympic), The Annoyance Theatre (Chicago)

What is the difference between short form improv (Who’s Lines Is It Anyway?) and long form improv (Maximum Occupancy)?

S: Short form can sometimes be referred to as theatre games, or theatre sports. They are short, heavily structured games with pretty specific outlines as to how the scene should go. The improvisers fill in the rest(e.g. the improvisers can only ask questions in a scene). These games are funny. In their bones they are created to be funny. Long form is much more free-form. Even when you have a loose structure (such as The Harold), it’s still up to the improvisers what the shape of the scenes will be. It’s far more daunting, but far more satisfying. And they’re not always funny. That’s not their purpose. Humor is just the side effect of honesty. I had a teacher tell me that when an audience sees a bad short-form improv show, they don’t remember it. But they always remember a terrible long-form show. It’s just a more impactful thing to see and do, good or bad. But, both are incredibly important, helpful, truthful, funny, and necessary. And they both require the same underlying skills.

When did you all start improvising together?

S: I think we all started consistently doing improv together about 6 or 7 years ago when we started doing improv and sketch comedy shows pretty regularly.

T: I joined the B Sketchy crew in 2013, which I believe was the 3rd season of our Sketch and Improv show. It had an Improv set in the second act.

D: Over 10 years ago, Buck came up with the idea to do a night of improv for our annual fundraiser. We were tired of the same old rubber chicken dinner and silent auction fundraisers that plague most non profits so we conceived of a way to entertain people while asking them for money. We focused on short form games that could include audience participation. As we all got better, Buck put together an improv/sketch show that we all contributed to.

How was this show born? 

S: Dave said, “I pitched a show. The three of us are doing long form. Bye.”

T: When we imagined the Upstairs at the B space we knew we wanted improv to be a regular element of our programming. In the old space there just wasn’t the ability to have concurrent events, just one of the many upgrades of The Sofia!

D: What’s great about the three of us is we all have different strengths. Stephanie is the smartest person in the room. She will always bring a withering sharpness to the show. Tara is on another planet and brings the weird. Her default starting position is usually crawling on the ground. I just try to move story forward and not get in their way!

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What has been the most memorable from Maximum Occupancy? 

T: When Stephanie started a scene lying next to me, and didn’t realize I was in a coffin. She looked over, got up and said, “What am I doing in this coffin?” Epic.

S: Our third show was it for me. We had this conversation backstage between the three of us and something clicked. It felt like we all settled in to what the three of us doing improv together really meant. Our group-think clicked on, everything settled. It was incredible. I could have lived in every one of our scenes that night for hours. Although Dave playing a DJ at a gay club where Tara and I were dancing is perhaps the slowest burn to the greatest scene button we’ve had. It broke us for a full minute before we could continue. Those moments are like heroin.

Where do you hope this show will go in the future?

S: I hope the show grows to a place where this is a Sacramento attraction. You go have drinks, or dinner, and then you try to get tickets to Maximum Occupancy… but you can’t… cause we’re sold out!

T: Tonight? Online to order pizza. Otherwise, no where…? It’s a B Street Show. We’re not going to Broadway, Sean.

Besides free pizza, why should people come and see this show?

S:  I would say besides the free pizza, people should come to Maximum Occupancy because they will be a part of something that will never exist again. It’s this weird contract improvisers have with their audiences. What happens in this room, stays in this room. And then disappears forever. And they got to see it.

T: Sacramento has a popping improv scene and I will always support performers getting onstage and saying “Yes” and being brave… anywhere. But between the 3 of us there are like 50 years of experience performing improv and in many cases teaching long-form improv; add to that the working relationship and friendship between us for the past decade, Fuhgetaboutit. Our group mind is just superior.

D: Look, it’s all made up on the spot so there’s never any guarantees with improv. But even our worst night is still funnier than hell. If you come, you will laugh.

Maximum Occupancy will close out the Upstairs at the B Festival tonight at 8:00 PM. Come see the funniest people in Sacramento and enjoy the fun Upstairs at the B atmosphere.

Upstairs at the B Festival Day 1: New Play Brunch…at night!

The New Play Brunch is a fun insight on the development of new plays that also includes complimentary waffles, coffee, and mimosas. These plays are in their first or second draft and often have not been read in front of an audience. Our first play featured was Kettlehouse by playwright Robert Caisley, and our second was In Between the Hours by Core Acting Company member Dana Brooke. Tonight, we’ll present Brother Sister by Core Acting Company member Tara Sissom. We interviewed playwright Tara Sissom on developing new work through the brunch series. 

Where did the idea of this play come from?

I write what I know. My family has been a major player in almost every play that I’ve written. However, it’s always something that I dread before I share with others. Have I gone too far? Will this family member ever speak to me again? Who will judge us, because of this? I wrote this play to get my brother to move out to California. If it works, it might be the first of its kind.

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First New Play Brunch featuring Robert Caisley’s Kettlhouse

How has this process helped in the development of the play? 

This play didn’t have an ending or a clean plot line until a couple of weeks before the New Play Brunch. I wrote Scene One August 2017 and Scenes Two and Three followed within about a month. The New Play Brunch gave me a deadline to have a draft completed and really helped me put my ideas to the page. The ending and the new source of conflict added into this draft is, in huge part, thanks to the New Play Brunch, my friends and colleagues and the B Street and good ole’ fashioned fear to complete it! So the rehearsal process was way more about getting the script where it needed to be than focusing on a full, completely staged reading. We had to sacrifice a little on the production side to get the words right. And for me as a playwright, I felt tremendous gratitude for B Street helping me reach my goals as a writer. Now I get to learn from this reading and I am really excited to hear what people have to say.

 

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Our second featured play was In Between the Hours by Dana Brooke. From right to left: Stephanie Altholz, Dana Brooke, and Darek Riley

What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

I am hoping to understand this play better and figure out what is serving it, what should be taken away, the audience will tell me that. So my goal is to listen (the best I can while onstage) and ask the audience questions in the talk-back afterwards.

Why is New Play Brunch fun for audiences?

The brunch series is fun because it gives plays a safe space to be heard in for the first time. Cause like, who would storm away from bottomless mimosas and waffles?

 

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Tara Sissom’s Brother Sister will be featured tonight in a special presentation of New Play Brunch at 7:00 PM. Come see this new play in its infancy, and if you’re interested to see all of the great programming available Upstairs at the B, click this link to get ticketing information. 

B Street Weekly: August 20 – September 9

B Street Weekly returns with three weeks of great material, including all the highlights from B Street’s amazing production of We’re Gonna Be Okay, SBL Concerts, and all the fun of Upstairs at the B. Scroll down to see all the pictures from the end of August, and if you want to see more, follow us on Instagram and Twitter @bstreettheatre

The Sutter District is the best place to have a date in Sacramento. Great dining, great entertainment.

Maximum Occupancy is the funniest improv show in Sacramento. We’re still waiting to buy our audience pizza!

Thanks @kevindumler for coming to see a show at The Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts. We hope to see you again soon!

The bomb shelter in Act II of We’re Gonna Be Okay. Probably one of the largest and coolest set changes in theatre. We’ve never seen so many audience members stay inside the theatre during intermission to watch a set change.

The Sutter Theatre stage was graced by Tyrone Wells and it did not disappoint. Thank you for so much great music!

The Latest Show returned to Upstairs at the B and included great music, wonderful conversation, funny jokes, and juggling clowns! Thanks to all who attended!

Stephanie Altholz and Doug Harris shine in We’re Gonna Be Okay. B Street Theatre has always been known for the great actors that perform on our stages.

Bobby Caldwell and his band had a rocking time on the Sutter Stage. Thanks to @sblscott for the photo and also booking such great talent.

Boozy New Play Brunch returned and showcased Company Member Dana Brooke’s play In Between the Hours. It was a beautiful show and the waffles and mimosas were pretty darn good too!

Poly Varghese brought a night of beautiful, meditative music to the Sutter Theatre.

Thanks @mymidtownlife for coming to see We’re Gonna Be Okay. We are so happy you love the space! Keep coming back.

Thanks to Doug Harris for being in We’re Gonna Be Okay, his debut with B Street. You were a great “Jake.”

The legendary Jesse Colin Young of the Young Bloods came to the Sutter Theatre and completely sold it out.

One of the most popular shows Upstairs at the B, Seekers of the Strange got a cool upgrade. Thanks to Kyle Privette for the amazing photos. Make sure you come check out this awesome series.

The Sofia always look pretty. Thanks @schnitzy_megpatrick for capturing this great photo of The Sofia in the summertime.

A ton is happening at The Sofia this upcoming week. The Upstairs at the B Festival is Tuesday through Friday, featuring Boozy New Play Brunch, Poison Boot, Seekers of the Strange, and Maximum OccupancyTons of affordable tickets and package deals are available. Also we have three concerts coming to the Sutter Theatre, featuring Pancho Sanchez, John Waite, and Todd Snider. Come to The Sofia and check out the best entertainment in town.