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6 August 2005

In the nearly 6 years that I've been pretending to be a theatre critic, one of the things that I've found most fun is watching the development of fledgling theatre companies.

The interest in such companies started long before I ever dreamed of writing reviews for a newspaper, back in the days when the kids were acting out the ultimate Mickey-and-Judy experience in the Vets Theatre here in town. 

I have told the story of the Sunshine Children's theatre before.  It was our first experience with a bunch of dedicated kids getting together to put on a show, and making a success of it.

Much later, some of our (adult) kids were involved with Theatre Zoe, the brainchild of a friend who had graduated from UC Davis and decided to start her own theatre company here in town, performing at the Davis Art Center (a somewhat far cry from the proverbial barn). 

More recently (last summer, in fact) a group of Davis High School graduates actually did "find a barn and put on a show," out in the countryside just outside the city limits.   The initial production, "My Avisia Winger." performed with the farm dog wandering in and out of the scene when the spirit moved him, was a delight and I gave it a great review.

fatcow-d.gif (217172 bytes)Now there is the Fat Cow Theatre Company, a group of former UCD Graduates who have come together to produce a summer theatre festival, bringing original works to Sacramento.

I have seen many of the actors involved in this theatre company in productions at the university and had interviewed three of them before, so it was like welcoming old friends to my home when they came for an interview this week.  I also knew I didn't have to worry about Sheila leaping up on Sam Tanng, because he works as a veterinary technician at the UCD Vet School, and I knew he would understand.

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(Sam Tanng in a production called After the Falderal)

It was a fun interview, hearing how this group of dedicated actors, who have moved on with their lives to New York or L.A. or Seattle have returned to Sacramento to put together this festival, paying expenses out of pocket simply because of their dedication to bringing original works to the area.  ("We hope ticket sales will bring some of that money back," Sam said.)

They told me about this "amazing" theatre that they'd found for their festival and I knew that would have to see the facility myself before I finished writing my feature article.

And so, last night at dusk, I set off for Sacramento.  I had the address, 1721 25th St. between R and Q.  How difficult could that be to find?

I found Q street and drove down Q Street to 25th, then turned right and halfway down the block was 1721 25th St.  Piece o'cake.

I parked and went into the private parking lot where I was facing a bunch of doors, none of which had the mark of any theatre company.  None of the doors had a number.  All except one were locked, but the one that was opened was the Alliance Française. 

Well, you never know what little niche a theatre group is going to find to use, so what the heck--the door looked like it had been left open for me, so I went in.  The place appeared to be deserted, though I could hear music.  I knew that the work which was being rehearsed that night contained dance, so I followed the music, wending my way through twists and turns of the building, thinking that it would be a miracle if any potential audience member ever found the place.

I finally found myself at a dead end, with doors on 3 sides of me, each of them locked.  I figured that I must be in the wrong place after all.

So I went back and stood in the parking lot staring at all of the other locked doors and wondering what in the hell I did now.  I didn't have the phone number for either Dana or Sam, the two I was meeting.  Who would have thought I'd need it?

I stood there wondering what to do when, fortunately, a guy pulled into the parking lot.  As he got out of his car, I told him I was looking for "the theatre."

"Which theatre?" he asked.  "There are two."

When I told him "Fat Cow," he pointed to a tall tree behind the building complex.

"See that tree?" he asked.  "Go back out to the street, turn left, to the corner, turn left again and go to the tree.  That's where the entrance is."

Well, good grief...who would know that when the address is plainly posted on the 25th St. building itself.

So I left the parking lot, went to the corner, turned left onto R St. and walked to the tree, where there were three doors.  The first two I tried were locked.  I also noted that there were spider webs along the base of one and weeds along the base of the other, so chances were these were not the right doors.  Again, I stood there,  perplexed, but then I saw a set of double doors and tried one of those.

Voilà!  It opened!   Into a pitch black tunnel. 

I stumbled around, tripping over something that clanked, and finally saw some light coming out of a side door and heard Sam calling "Hello!"   I finally found it.  I sure hope that they get things better organized before opening night!

But the venue was, as described, "amazing."  The space of a small warehouse, combined with the intimacy of a theatre, seating about 60.  Its only drawback is that it has no air conditioning and we are in a week of 100+ temperatures, with no significant drop in temperatures predicted, but they had set up fans at the end of each row and, surprisingly, it wasn't overly hot (and I am quite aware of the heat!)

I watched the rehearsal for After the Falderal, still rough at this point, but innovative and charming.   Next week I will review two of the plays in the festival, and then review the third the following week.

I hope they make a go of it.  They are really excited about it and have obviously put in a lot of work.   Its success or failure will depend on whether or not they can get an audience to come.

And whether or not the audience can FIND it!


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Dana Snyder, After the Falderal  (I love this photo!)


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