Maureen-Theresa Williams, left, and JanLee Marshall founded B8Theatre Company, which had to vacate its Clayton Road venue.

B8 loses to development, seeks new downtown venue

Maureen-Theresa Williams, left, and JanLee Marshall founded B8Theatre Company, which had to vacate its Clayton Road venue.

The show must go on for B8 Theatre Company, despite recently losing its downtown Concord venue.
In addition to producing theater, the company is now tasked with raising funds to secure a new location and convert it into a “black box” theater.

According to artistic director JanLee Marshall, the B8 Building Committee began exploring locations near the current Clayton Road theater after learning Browman Development Co. would demolish the building to make way for an upscale housing/retail complex.

The theater company is scrambling to secure a new home in a competitive and quickly developing real estate market, said managing director Maureen-Theresa Williams. The company created the “$88 for 8” campaign to raise funds for a new space.

Marshall said B8 has been working with the Concord Development Department and hopes the city will include arts as a part of growth. “Sadly, the development of many areas seems to be the demise of the small, nonprofit or locally owned organizations and businesses. The East Bay has had a number of small theater companies lose their spaces due to development,” Marshall said.

The company is pleased with the audiences and artists the group has drawn to the area and wants to continue to perform in downtown Concord. B8 prides itself on providing theater, as well as music, improv, dance and visual arts.
B8 founders Marshall and Williams are seasoned theater artists. Decades ago, the two began working with the “nomadic” theater company originally known as Butterfield 8, performing at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, Town Hall in Lafayette and the Schoolhouse Theatre in Pleasant Hill. Butterfield took residency at Cue Productions for two years before moving into the Clayton Road venue in 2016.

Now they are on the move again, and Marshall wants the new space to be the theater “we couldn’t find when we were just starting.”

When the curtain rises again, Marshall said B8 pledges to continue fulfilling its mission of providing theater education as well as fostering new playwrights and performing the “B8 Twist,” in which classic scripts are re-imagined.

In April, the company will open a three-week run of the world premiere of “Pinned Butterfly” by Adam Esquenazi Douglas at the Concord Historical Society. The play is a story of division and coming together, which seems an appropriate theme for the company.

Although the space for it has yet to be determined, the last show of the current season will be a gender-bending “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I like to think I can turn anything into a theater,” Marshall said. “But wherever we go, we’d like to be there forever.”

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