B Street interns help make the show
Lauren Adams tells how two years with Sac’s beloved company help her on ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’
For Lauren Adams, it sort of feels like her parents are selling her childhood home. More than a decade after interning with B Street fresh out of college, she remembers what made the theater so special—the way the closeness of the performance space helped shape her acting, and how she first learned there was no need for a “Plan B.”
“Being at B Street was the time when I thought … I’m not going to teach or do something else. I’m going to be an actor,” Adams says.
Adams says she developed skills at B Street she continues to use in work on stage and in her biggest credit to date, as cult escapee Gretchen Chalker in the Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. “I really learned about intimate, almost on-camera acting in the B Street Theatre,” she says. “You couldn’t overact, you had to build really small, intimate moments.”
For 25 years, the B Street Theatre intern program has immersed recent college grads into the world of professional theater. Interns specialize in acting, directing, development, administration or tech to gain first-hand experience of running a theater. They receive a housing allowance, a weekly stipend and their Actors Equity union cards, which come with benefits including health care. Adams says it also gives recent college grads a sense of security.
“When you’re graduating college, it’s really nice to know you can land somewhere for 12 months and work.”
After auditioning at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, Adams was offered a B Street internship with a focus on acting. She followed the internship with a year on staff as artistic associate, one of many interns who become employees.
She first tried improv at B Street with teacher Kurt Johnson. Now she’s in a weekly improv show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and says she has her time in Sacramento to thank for her love of improv.
“I feel really privileged to have known Lauren and a number of other people,” says Johnson. “I easily learned as much from teaching as I did from doing.”
In 1993, Johnson was one in the first group of B Street interns.
“It’s an amazing program, with hours and hours and hours of practical experience,” he says.
Depending on the intern’s focus, that practical experience varies. Emmett Jaeger is experiencing the life of a production manager, discovering the details that go into a production. “I’m doing a lot of learning all the time,” he says. “Watching the head of the department … what he has to go through each day to make sure we can keep going and keep moving forward to the next show.”
Anastasia Tammen, whose focus is on education and outreach, teaches a playwriting class in the morning then does administration work like coordinating visits to schools in the afternoon.
There’s some overlap in intern duties, which in the old theater included janitorial work and pouring drinks for patrons. “We were jack-of-all-trades,” says Johnson. “We did a bit of everything, which they still do.”
But there may be less cleaning and pouring in interns’ future, because with the larger theater comes a janitorial staff and professional bartenders.
“I’m so jealous that they get a brand new gorgeous space,” Adams says. “But I’m also really sad I won’t get to go to the old B Street again.”
Jaeger, Tammen and acting intern Olivia Schaperjohn are some of the few interns to work in both theaters and help with the move. They’ve gotten used to the longer days and juggling many roles while moving and preparing for opening night at Sofia.
“It’s all for the theater, ultimately,” Schaperjohn says.