B Street managing director steps down amid theater expansion

Bill Blake, seen in 2005, was a major player in raising funds for B Street Theatre’s ambitious expansion plans.
Bill Blake, seen in 2005, was a major player in raising funds for B Street Theatre’s ambitious expansion plans. Sacramento Bee file

The managing director of Sacramento’s B Street Theatre, Bill Blake, will step down at the end of July after spearheading an epic capital campaign and launching the construction of a $29 million multi-theater complex.

Blake will return to AMS Planning & Research, the arts consulting company he left 11 years ago when he joined the burgeoning theater, B Street announced Thursday. He’ll become AMS’ Western regional director based in Sacramento.

Blake will also join the B Street board of directors and assist with both finding his replacement and transitioning the company to the complex at 27th Street and Capitol Avenue, with an opening scheduled for fall 2017.

B Street board Chairman Garry Maisel said Blake had “been so instrumental over the last 10 years getting our capital campaign up and moving.”

B Street Producing Artistic Director Buck Busfield said Blake was first hired to primarily manage the business side of the company, with the new theater project only taking a third of his time. Busfield and Blake, however, both knew that fundraising and design planning would occupy more of Blake’s attention as the project evolved, Busfield said.

Although construction just started last month, Blake said the project could continue without him.

“To hand that off to the board and Buck and whoever else will be coming in – now is the time to do that,” Blake said. “There are no longer any question marks about how we are funding and financing the building.”

During his time at B Street, Blake became the civic face of the theater and a significant community asset, lending his experience to organizations such as the Midtown Business Association and the mayor’s Performing Arts Theater Task Force.

Busfield said Blake’s willingness to engage the community made him an invaluable resource for the theater.

“He created a strong nonartistic presence in the community,” Busfield said. “Before that, we were just a theater that people liked. He really touched a lot of people in town, inspired them and instilled faith in them in the theater.”

Busfield said one clear accomplishment by Blake and B Street was the theater now being built.

“It’s not small, it’s a big project,” Busfield said. “It’s going to be a on a very cool block with very diverse programming, so that’s a big achievement.”

Maisel said Blake’s recruitment by AMS wasn’t unexpected.

“He now has a level of expertise in planning and executing performing arts development projects that not a lot of people have,” Maisel said. “He’s so talented, we’re not surprised.”

B Street now faces the challenge of filling Blake’s position while also preparing to move to its new space.

“We’re going to look at this as an opportunity to rethink the skill set we need in that position,” Maisel said.

For one thing, fundraising may not be as important as facility management for B Street going forward. The board will appoint a search committee who along with Busfield and Blake will consider what type of management structure B Street will need.

Blake will remain involved in the process. In fact, he spoke as if the theater were still a big part of him.

“The company now gets to focus on building up and developing itself, its internal capacity,” Blake said. “We have to reshape the inner workings of the company and it’s a little bit of reshaping and it’s a lot of growth.”

Marcus Crowder: 916-321-1120, @marcuscrowder