When Emmy-winning television, stage and film actor Tim Busfield (thirtysomething, A Few Good Men, Field of Dreams) founded a Sacramento-based professional children’s theater troupe in 1986, there was no B Street Theatre, and certainly no grand plan to grow what City Councilman Steve Hansen calls “the little theater that could” into a multi-stage midtown performing arts destination. But, in May – after an 11-year campaign kicked off by a $6 million Sutter Health land grant – the B Street broke ground at 27th Street and Capitol Avenue for just that. The new location will include a new $26 million complex featuring two larger stages than the current B Street location offers, as well as a spacious lobby, a bistro-style cafe, a loading dock, and a small workshop, said Buck Busfield, Tim Busfield’s brother, co-founder and producing artistic director of the B Street Theatre.
And unlike its present spot at 2711 B Street, it won’t be backed up by a levee-supported train track that rumbles and whistles by on a regular basis – before, during and after shows.
B Street Board Chairman Garry Maisel said deep-pocketed donors such as Sutter Health and the City of Sacramento weren’t the only supporters who kept the dream alive. It was a collaborative effort on the part of 950 individuals and organizations who believed in the Busfields’ dedication to introducing theater to children and providing new works to Sacramento-area audiences. “They put us where we are today, which is under construction,” said Maisel, who projects a November 2017 completion date for the 40,000-square-foot center.
“Architecturally, it’s going to be interesting and unique,” said Maisel. “We hope to have restaurants in the new complex, and a beautiful rooftop area for folks to enjoy views in the midtown area.”
While the exterior will definitely draw the eye, the play’s the thing. And it’s inside that the new B Street center will truly strut its stuff.
The larger of the two theater spaces will be the Sutter Children’s Theatre, a 365-seat proscenium-style playhouse that will boast wing and trap space that will facilitate set changes without the need for long blackouts and elbow-bumping stagehands. This proscenium stage will not only host the B Street’s Family Series and B3 Series, but function as a space for concerts, speaking engagements, conferences, and other community events.
“We’re definitely looking forward to being a presenter,” said Busfield, who noted that while the theaters will remain branded by the B Street Theatre name, the center as a whole will be named for a sponsor, which had yet to be announced at press time.
The second space will be the Mainstage Theatre, a 250-seat house with a thrust stage similar to the current B Street main stage.
“I think the B Street is going to take part in the renaissance which is happening in midtown,” said Maisel. “We announced our plan in 2005 – before the arena, and we’re seeing the rest of the city catching up, bringing folks into midtown, spending money on food and drink, and even spending the night. This new theater adds to the economic vitality of Sacramento midtown, a key piece of the renaissance in midtown which is really taking off.”
Having the flexibility of two theaters – each with greater capacity than the existing spaces – will ensure that B Street productions have the ability to meet the requirements of a variety of productions. Moreover, the increased capacity will allow B Street to keep pace with its growing audience of season subscribers and regular ticket holders. It’s estimated that the new complex will be able to accommodate some 35,000 more children and families.
But it’s not only the business community and audience members who will benefit from the new performing arts center. B Street Theatre Artistic Associate Dave Pierini said the acting community is also looking forward to the center’s debut.
“The B Street acting company is chomping at the bit to get into our new space,” said Pierini. “We can’t wait to be able to expand the range of shows we can do with a state-of-the-art facility. Our new theaters will allow us to tell stories we haven’t been able to tell in our current space and our dressing rooms will be pretty nice too!”
Pierini may have been half-kidding about the new facility’s dressing rooms, but as Busfield says, actors are like any employees, and are attracted to modern, well-designed workplaces that offer a bit of comfort and cachet. But then again, who isn’t?