Patron’s Wife (Laura Luke), Rude Patron (Matthew Udall), Sam (Victoria Timoteo)
After their facility was left badly damaged by a fire, The Alternative Arts Collective found themselves in the middle of Del Paso Boulevard, where half the buildings have boards in their windows and the streets are dim. There stands an unassuming building with an inner courtyard. Facing that courtyard are three establishments: The Sacramento Temporary Contemporary Gallery, Big Idea Theatre, and Mama Kim’s restaurant. An island of “culture” in a sea of poverty and its accompanying indifference. It was here that TAAC premiered something no other Sacramento theatre company has attempted: taking the plunge into digital media, they premiered the first episode of a twelve-part miniseries that will ultimately culminate in a feature-length film, hopefully aiding the organization in accomplishing its goal of “reaching a wider audience.”
Liz ( Kara Ow) and Dolores (Susan Madden)
This project, Midtown Blue, is spearheaded by the founding director of TAAC, David Blue Garrison. Garrison stands well over six feet and possesses a natural ability for crowd control. His gregarious smile and infectious energy won over the crowded restaurant of his peers, mostly white and seemingly well to do. Garrison’s enthusiasm for the project stems from the support of the TAAC community. “We are a family that supports each other in any way we can. We rely on [each other] to volunteer time, resources, and knowledge to produce this series.”
The story of how TAAC came to make a pilot is quite interesting. Garrison approached local entrepreneur and art financier Jeff Williams with the project. According to Garrison, “Jeff and TAAC have had a long standing business relationship for years. Usually with a legitimate proposal and a convincing presentation, he’s willing to help.” After announcing the project over one hundred interested actors came to audition for the series. This response, coupled with the enthusiastic reaction to the screening and the swell of support after the fire, have bolstered TAAC’s resolve to continue with the project.
The finer technical aspects of the show itself leave something to be desired, however. It is reminiscent of student films shown at the end of a semester. Actors continuously drift in and out of frame, sound levels rise and fall sporadically, and the camera angles seem hastily set up. While handheld shots can help produce a certain mood, a tripod could only have helped the episode. With that said, the dialogue had its moments of humor and striking poignancy. In one scene the character Sam (played by Victoria Timoteo), referencing her depression, states “Everything I’ve never wanted is in it.” For anyone who has or knows someone who has suffered from depression, this line will resonate on the drive home. Street lights and exits will go unnoticed. And for all its faults, the pilot does contain good acting. The sibling relationship between Ben and Liz (Kyle Burrow and Karen Ow, respectively) is quite believable and touching. Although Ben as a character is hard to feel for, as he does little more but freak out in a full bathtub with his clothes on for the majority of the pilot. At the end of the episode, without giving too much away, it is hard to care for him when he is in danger.
Ben (Kyle Burrow)
Yet most of these structural cons can be forgiven as this is a theatre company attempting film, a medium which no one, by David’s own admission, in the organization has any experience with. In this way TAAC is to be commended, going so boldly into unknown territory. With all this in mind, the work shows great promise. Making films is hard, and one has to start somewhere.
Jack (Brian Bohlender) and Claire (Julie Thompson)
Sacramento is no ghost town; there are hundreds of stories to tell. As the screening let out, and the white wine was left undrunk, the diners went to their cars and passed by an often overlooked scene. Two men with bags crammed with shoddy stole electricity from an outlet while a rail thin woman spoke furtively to a man with cold eyes and a crone in layered cloaks pleaded for bus fare. TAAC loves to tell stories, and if they are committed to a twelve-part series ending in a film, and if they are committed to expanding their audience, one way to do that would be to diversify the people they represent. Theatre in Sacramento is mostly a white, middle-class affair. The great thing about film is that anyone can be reached by it. All they need is an Internet connection and an outlet.
Words by Evan Nyarady.