Four plays, written from scratch, rehearsed and performed on the same stage, on the same night. Four plays, written from scratch, rehearsed and performed…in twenty four hours.
Round Belly Theatre Company hosts its 24-Hour Theatre Project at the Temescal Arts Center this Saturday, January 23. The first performance begins at 8pm. I recommend that you attend.
Brian Quakenbush and Patrick Holt, two of Round Belly Theatre Company’s founders, recently shared with me some of the theater company’s history, its present state and their visions for its future. Round Belly and its founders feel, to me, earnestly and pleasantly gritty, in that authentic, conscious and creative way that so many Hipsters strive to be. Quakenbush and Holt are the Real Deal – two talented, passionate and inspired friends co-creating art because they love to and because they are compelled to do it on their own terms.
Round Belly’s story is as compelling as the plays that they continue to perform. From works by Shakespeare to plays by local writers, Round Belly presents creative interpretations of traditional theater, as well as creative messages about modern society, our relationship to our planet and the way we communicate as humans. Powerful stuff, cutting-edge stuff, performed and produced by a truly innovative theater company.
Round Belly Theatre Company started in Oakland, CA, approximately one and a half years ago. It calls home The Shattuck Muse, a creative oasis located across the street from North Oakland’s iconic cafe, Nomad. The theater company claims less than ten full-time members, but manages to produce substantial, compelling performances. Round Belly’s troupe has performed on stages both outdoors and indoors. It has produced six successful 24-Hour Theater Project in less than eighteen months of existence. It has also performed four full-length plays, one comedy show and one play by Shakespeare. Round Belly has also produced several short skits that have been recorded to video and screened during intermissions at their plays.
Diligent, driven, talented, passionate, creative: Round Belly Theatre Company, in long-hand.
Quakenbush and Holt attended college together, in Michigan. Surrounded by a community of actors, directors, writers and “really good people,” they shared a dream of starting up their own theater company in Chicago. According to Quakenbush, life intervened, as the paces of the lives of the members of their community in Michigan presented logistical challenges for the visionary company leaders.
“The problem was that there was a three year difference of people who were graduating. And I think that everyone’s intentions were to finish their degree. So, in that span of time, people went to Europe, people went to grad school, people got married, people…did all sorts of things. One by one, our list of thirteen people diminished all the way down to Patrick and me.”
The two kept their vision alive, as each explored life in different parts of our west coast. While hosting him as a visitor from Seattle, Quakenbush lured Holt to relocate to the Bay Area. Starting up a theater company was integral to his pitch.
Once Holt relocated to the Bay Area, he and Quakenbush wasted little time in establishing Round Belly. To this writer, the company’s name conjures mental images of a laughing Buddha, teeming with possibility, wisdom and wealth. According to Holt, I am not far from the truth:
“[It’s about] the ability to be full, or maybe a pregnant belly…something with a lot of potential. Or the whole Midwestern beer belly, ‘I’m satisfied because I’ve got [a belly] full of beer,’ thing…I think it works in all directions.”
Hard work, passion and creativity, so far, have yielded for Round Belly critical success and a growing population of loyal fans. In my judgment, much of their appeal in the North Oakland community comes from their earnest, refreshing approach to theater. As a theater company, Round Belly operates as independent, not a small company trying to provide for audiences a big company experience.
“We’re not trying to replicate or even create what you’ll find on Broadway. Our plays don’t feature big sets or elaborate productions – they’re about good stories, great acting and creative uses of stages and performance spaces,” Quakenbush and Holt explain.
Round Belly has several plays in the works and takes aim in 2010 at bi-monthly performances. Get psyched, Oakland – great theater (ahem – Theatre) is coming to our backyard.
Go see their 24-Hour Theatre Project at the Temescal Arts Center this Saturday, January 23 at 8pm.
For more information about Round Belly Theatre Company, visit www.roundbellytheatre.com.