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The B Street Theatre Serves Up a Fifth of Jack

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Complete and Unfinished marks Jack Gallagher’s fifth one-man show

Though his journey has had stopovers from the New England to Hollywood, Jack Gallagher is one special transplant that our community had readily embraced as one of our own. We’ve grown familiar with his voice and humor as a popular spokesperson, host, and standup entertainer. But it’s been his connection with the B Street Theatre that has revealed that man behind the grin.

Mr. Gallagher’s new play, Complete and Unfinished, is the fifth in a series of very personal one-man plays, each allowing the audiences to discover the common threads that connect us all.

Jack with memories of young parenthood
In 1998, the first play, “Letters to Declan”, opened in San Francisco. This story tells of a young father, and all the joys and anguish that come with parenthood. Using the series of letters that he’d written to his older son since birth, Gallagher opens us to how he overcame the fears of being a parent, learned the responsibilities of caring for a young children, and used humor and wisdom to grow with his sons. It was a touching and intimate performance.

His second production, “Just The Guy”, took us in 2003 along his ambitious journey through the fickle world of entertainment. Gallagher starts us off with all the jobs he’d held in his youth, from nail factory worker to substitute teacher. From there, we shared his adventures in comedy clubs, TV talk shows, and the jungles of Hollywood. From Carson and Leno to Eastwood, the young rising comedian had shared the stage and screen with some of Tinseltown’s most famous. There, we find humor and heartbreak, success and disappointment. We discover that even the world of glitter and lights cannot conceal the politics that is often hidden behind the scenes. This was the first of the one-man plays to open at the B Street Theater in Sacramento.

Family plays an important part in every one of Gallagher’s plays
Gallagher’s third play, “What He Left”, told the many strands that he shared with his father. This 2006 play told us how he was raised in a traditional Irish Catholic blue collar New England home. His stories used his unique experiences to weave familiar memories for the audiences. Again, his folksy humor brighten his memories, while the touching stories brought emotional reactions at each performance. He also found ways to take his experiences as son, and used those to define himself as a father and a husband.

The 2010 production, “a different kind of COOL”, may have been one of the most personal. In this play, Gallagher answered the question every parent has, “What if?” When he and his wife Jean discover that their second son, Liam was on the Autism Spectrum, we are taking on a tightly written, and emotional journey. All their fears were revealed to us, as were the new realities that defined their parenting styles. Still, the Gallaghers demonstrated the incredible power of family, and how each challenge lead them to unfamiliar roads. Every parent in the audience was compelled to go home and hug their children.

The B Street Theatre Main Stage puts the audience in an intimate setting for each production
This season, for a six week run, Jack Gallagher rewards us with the fifth chapter of his story. “Complete and Unfinished” is a very different production from the previous four. This show can be seen as an overview of his life, growing up and through the 60’s. He shared a few minutes before his last Preview performance and gave Sacramento Press the backstory of this latest revelation.

Buck Busfield, co-founder and producing director of the B Street Theatre had contacted Jack Gallagher, wanting to know if he’s had any new ideas. Gallagher felt he’d exhausted the “family stuff” with his previous four shows and began thinking about the things in his life and how they all connected.

It then fell to Gallagher to think of a new way to present his story and he feels he’s come up with something very unique. The two common themes, the two “consistent things” he discovered were family and music.

“I’ve always fallen back on listening to music during times of happiness, sadness, stress, anxiety, or joy. And I’ve always found in my career, I’m trying to go home – I’m always trying to find home, where that is at the time.” For Gallagher, home ranged from the security of his New England neighborhood, to a Jeep during an extended roadtrip, and finally to his current family nest in the Land Park area of Sacramento.

The board became the canvas he painted his story upon
As observed during the Opening Night performance of the play, Gallagher takes us through his creative process, consulting the audience for input and reactions. He started with an empty bulletin board, a desk covered with assorted index cards, some markers, and pushpins to pull it all together. The only other decorations that graced the stage were some family photos and framed personal artwork on the back wall, and a single easychair at one near corner. We were not there to see a finished product, but to be involved in it’s creation.

A bare bulletin board, a cluttered desk, and a well-worn easy chair greeted the audience as the show began
As Gallagher, in the warm, comfortable way that his audiences have become accustom to, wove his tale, the bare board changed. Ideas were quickly written down, with larger concepts on larger cards used to head columns. Individual incidents became the subjects of smaller cards, and found their places (often changed) from heading to heading. His plan was to use the board to outline his life’s journey, leading the audience to recognize that they were part of the creative process.

As his charming narrative took the audience along his journeys, the columns of index cards began to weave an intricate web. Elements from one story became stepping stones to another adventure, or would tie us to elements of one from the past.

Gallagher took us from his traditional upbringing in New England through the eyes of an impressionable young Irish Catholic boy and brought us on quite an odyssey. There were sidetrips, missteps, triumphs, and moments of discovery. Periodically, he’s step back and take an overview of the board. There, he’d turn and pull an audience member into the discussion, showing the common threads that bound many.

When asked if he saw the play changing or evolving through each performance, Gallagher replied, “Yeah, because I involve the audience. I ask the audience questions. I ask if there’s something on the board they don’t like, should I take something off? Is there too much about one thing or not enough about another? Who remembers this and how many people have trouble with this? So, in that sense, what I’ve tried to do is combine the play aspect of it with the stand-up stuff that I used to do, because that’s how I started out”.

The play takes the audience along during Jack Gallagher’s jouneys of self-discovery

After a pause, he continued, “You know, I never wanted to be a playwright – I was a stand-up comedian. So I have tried, with the help of Buck Busfield and Jerry Montoya, who codirected it, to integrate the two things. And I think it’s a different experience for the audience because they’re not used to an actor talking to them while they’re watching the play.” During the first Preview performance, there were some audience members who seemed uncomfortable, but others who joined right in.

Overall, Gallagher felt he had exhausted the standard subjects, and was looking for something personal. He wanted the audience to experience all the disparate sort of events that happened in his life. He was looking for consistency and found unique way (by using the board and the cards) to bring the audience through his process.

When asked about audience reaction, Jack reflected, “A couple of people came up afterwards, and (said) they’d recognized certain things. I’d play some music during the show and people recognize and like some of the music – felt it’s from our – you know, it’s mostly rock and roll music from our generation.” He smiled, picturing the faces of the audience members who’s spoken to him afterwards, “The name of the play is Complete and Unfinished, and my feeling is everyone’s life is complete to a certain extent, but until it’s done, it’s unfinished. So there are things that are complete and that you can rely on, that you can look back and say, ‘OK, I’m good with that.’ But then there’s stuff you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Gallagher’s ideas were recorded on index cards, soon to join others in weaving his story

As his charming narrative took the audience along his journeys, the columns of index cards began to weave an intricate web. Elements from one story became stepping stones to another adventure, or would tie us to elements of one from the past.

For Jack Gallagher, that was the theory and the theme. He hopes the people can relate to it. As he modestly put it, “My life isn’t any more special than anyone else’s – I just talk about it.”

It was obvious that music was driving force in his life. He revealed how many songs triggered memories for him. Gallagher clearly enjoyed finding music that connected him with events in his life during the play. But, what was more telling was how he found audience members who found similar bonds as the music evoked the moments that define each of us.

Each of Gallagher’s one-man plays have been very personal experiences for both the artist and the audience
“All the music in the show means something, and not just the songs I play during the show. When people are waiting in the lobby, when they’re walking into the theater, the music that introduces me, (it) is all picked for a reason.” Gallagher turned, unveiling his familiar grin and concluded with, “Music means a lot to me, and so those are the two elements that I came up with, home and music.” The reaction of the crowd in attendance confirmed that that sentiment was shared by many.

The B Street Theatre and Jack Gallagher have developed a unique creative partnership in Sacramento
WHAT: Complete and Unfinished by Jack Gallagher

RUN DATES: January 13 – February 24, 2013

SHOW TIMES: Tuesdays at 6:30 pm, Wednesdays at 2 pm and 6:30 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 pm and 9 pm, Sundays at 2 pm.

WHERE: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento

COST $23-$35 (price includes $5 Facility Fee), $5 Student Rush

INFORMATION: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org

CO-DIRECTORS: Buck Busfield and Jerry R. Montoya

SPONSORED BY: Western Health Advantage

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