Best community theater group

Big Idea Theatre

Big Idea Theatre’s 2019 “Legacy” Season continues with Skeleton Crew, Sept. 27-Oct. 4 and The Clean House, Nov. 15-Dec. 14.

Big Idea Theatre’s 2019 “Legacy” Season continues with Skeleton Crew, Sept. 27-Oct. 4 and The Clean House, Nov. 15-Dec. 14.

Photo courtesy of Yarcenia Garcia

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On Sept. 22, 16-year-old Big Idea Theatre company nabbed three honors at the 2019 Ellys, the region’s local theater awards. Best supporting male and female actors went to Bootycandy, a play centered on growing up gay and African American. Jasper, Sacramento playwright J.P. Malin’s tripped-out comedy-drama about a luckless bachelor with an imaginary friend, won best script.

Both plays happened to be Sacramento premieres, and it’s one of the ways Big Idea Theatre separates itself from other community theater groups. Bootycandy opened at the company’s Del Paso Boulevard space in August 2018, and Jasper was performed for the first time ever in June this year.

This season’s seven full-length plays, with 105 performances total, were all works that hadn’t been shown in town before.

“Obviously, there’s a business aspect: Will this sell?” said Karen Bombadier, Big Idea’s incoming artistic director. “But we’re more driven by: What do we want to produce creatively? What do we think would be fun to work on? What do we think our audiences would enjoy and be able to sink their teeth into?”

But Bombadier says her company’s biggest distinction from its peers—Green Valley Theatre Company, Fair Oaks Theatre Festival and others—is that the creative process, start to finish, is entirely democratic. Each season, play selections are voted on by the company’s 15 or so members, then everyone works to make the stage magic happen.

“We figure out where our holes are,” she said. “I’m not really great at painting, but I’ll jump in and do it.”

Now, Big Idea is seeking new donors and fresh blood. Bombadier hopes that the theater can become a training ground for young college actors who may not be ready for regional theater. Next season, beginning in January, it plans to host industry nights when local actors can network and see a Big Idea show.

“There’s kind of a gap between educational theater and regional theater, and we really want to fill that gap for people,” she said. “Or people who have gone off and done things, and now they’re back in Sacramento trying to make a home and a family, but they still want to drive that creative side. They have a home with us.”

Correction: The article incorrectly stated that the Big Idea Theatre play Bootycandy featured an all-black cast. The story has been updated. SN&R regrets the error.