When B Street Theater producing artistic director Buck Busfield asked company members Tara Sissom, Amy Kelly and Stephanie Altholz to write a play for themselves, they replied, “What?”
More likely an enthusiastic “Yeah!” came first, followed by the “What?” when the trio sat down to pursue the task. Through the years the three women have become familiar faces across B Street’s many stages, logging more than 60 shows between them. They’ve created material for themselves in B Street’s various sketch-comedy iterations, but writing a play with an actual narrative is different.
“These three women are the funniest people Buck and I know,” director Dave Pierini said. “It was a no-brainer to try and get them to create some content for themselves.”
Kelly said, “Buck’s observed us for so long and knows how we react to circumstances and how much it makes him laugh in real life, so he thought maybe he could capitalize on that.”
The trio agreed that writing an insider story about being an actor at B Street Theatre wouldn’t have great general interest.
“It’s really a micro-world, and maybe the jokes and content wouldn’t walk the line of being theatrical at all,” Sissom said.
They decided to go camping and figure out just how they might pull it off. Soon the women realized a camping trip was the perfect setting for the story.
“The backbone of our script was more or less the transcript of that one night,” Sissom said. “Then we edited and added a lot of fictional material and added a lot real material.”
Pierini, who’s written numerous plays for the B Street Family Series, suggested they make an outline so they knew where they were headed but otherwise stayed mostly out of the creative process. He did however give them deadlines which all agreed were essential to the process.
“Dave was like the project manager,” Altholz said.
“We had to figure out how we were going thread our semi-autobiographical lines together,” Sissom said. She became the group’s recorder of ideas, dialogue and occasional mediator. The women were all responsible for their own character’s through lines and each worked on separate scenes as well.
“It did get to the point where we could no longer write in separate rooms,” Altholz said.
Much more was written than was used, and the cutting was occasionally traumatic, but the friendships have survived and all are feeling confident the results will entertain.
“We knew we wanted to have certain types of moments because our sense of humor across the board is pretty dark, and left of center,” Sissom said. “You get to see despite our pain we love to laugh at ourselves.”
What: A new play written and performed by Tara Sissom, Stephanie Altholz and Amy Kelly about three women on a camping trip. Dave Pierini directs.
When: Previews 5 p.m. Saturday, April 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 23; opens at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 23; continues through Sunday, June 4, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
Cost: $26-$38, $18 for previews
Information: 916-443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org