In 1986, me, my brother and a group of young Sacramento theater artists were inspired to provide quality theater entertainment to children. We wrote a play about Aesop’s Fables, bought a beat up van that was missing a back seat, established official headquarters in a one-bedroom Midtown apartment and began a school tour.
Thirty years on, that program has become the most prolific theater of its size west of the Mississippi — the B Street Theatre. The theater company continues to delight audiences and impress critics with its professional yet intimate contemporary productions for adults and children.
B Street has built a community of almost 30,000 devoted subscribers and patrons, and has dedicated itself to producing more than 100 new plays — 60 of which are world, national or regional premieres. Yet despite its successes, we at B Street have never lost sight of our original mission to entertain and educate children about theater and playwriting. Today, we offer an expansive educational workshop program, a children’s playwriting competition and the same beloved school tour — which has now reached 4.8 million students in its 30-year tenure — but now we have a new van.
We are also building a new home, a state-of-the-art performing arts complex in Midtown Sacramento.
When it opens in February 2018, the 48,000-square-foot Sofia Tsakopoulos Center For The Arts, or “The Sofia,” will be home to B Street Theatre’s mainstage with 250 seats, and the Sutter Theatre for Children with 365 seats. It will be California’s first year-round, professional theater for children.
In the same spirit of community from which the B Street Theatre was born, Sutter Theatre will open its doors to host local artists, community organizations and touring acts. The Sofia will become an entertainment hub for all of Sacramento, where locals and visitors alike can see theater, comedy, dance or musicals in an intimate, professional space every night of the year. In addition, its large public lobby, classrooms, open-air courtyard and on-site full service restaurant make the facility a true destination in Sacramento.
This new venue is more than a new home for the B Street; it will be a preferred venue of choice for professional and community artistic organizations throughout the greater Sacramento region. And, as with any great community and civic effort, it would not have been possible without the support of many. The $30 million landmark project was funded by thousands of gifts from patrons and community leaders for over a decade. We were given a gift of land from Sutter Health valued at more than $7.5 million, and a contribution and loan from the City of Sacramento, as well as an $8.4 million loan from the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank.
We are most excited about the opportunity to serve more children (of all ages!) through our many programs including:
- The School Tour, to provide entertainment to children while encouraging in them a love for the theater and a specific appreciation for the art of playwriting.
- Playwriting Workshops, to initiate young writers into the process and skill of creative writing and to introduce participants to the entire process of a theatrical put on stage.
- Two annualstudent playwriting competitions, giving students the chance to have their plays performed by The B Street School Tour — open to students throughout Northern California.
- Student matinées, which provide 900 students every week for 20 weeks per year with the excitement of a live performance at B Street. For many children, this is their only exposure to professional theater. The Walk in our Shoes Statewide Tour, where we collaborate with the California Mental Health Services Authority and public relations agency RSE to reduce stigma associated with mental illnesses by debunking myths and educating young people about mental wellness.The Adult Day Reporting Center, a workshop series that focuses on developing reading, vocabulary, presentation and performance skills in adults. Participants are encouraged to take risks and learn new skills in an environment that is safe and conducive to creativity.The Summer Acting Program offers students a fun, exciting and creative environment from professional instructors active in the fields of theater, and fosters creativity, confidence and team building.And last but not least, the conservatory for adults, which provides aspiring actors of all ages with a positive and creative atmosphere where they can learn the craft of acting — from basic technique to the practical aspects of building a career in the theater.
As we move into our new home and begin a new chapter for our company, we will always be tied to our roots, our mission and our community. See you at The Sofia!
This story is part of the 22nd annual Capital Region Cares, Comstock’s special publication dedicated to nonprofits and charitable giving. You can order the 2017-2018 edition online here. To submit your nonprofit success story for consideration in next year’s edition, fill out this online form.