Labor of Love
Local actors find dream theater company
By Jessica Laskey
When I ask Adrienne Sher what finally motivated her to start her own theater company—after 40-plus years working as an actor and director in New York, Florida, Colorado and California—her answer is simple.
“At some point you just need to do it,” Sher says. “Jump in the water, produce a play and see what happens.”
That play was “The Field” by John B. Keane. The show ran at the beginning of the year at California Stage with Adrienne Sher directing and her longtime collaborator and partner Tom Rhatigan playing the lead role. The production marked the first time Sher and Rhatigan produced under the aegis Black Point Theatre, the nonprofit theater company they founded in 2019 (after more than a year of preparation). The theater is named after their favorite beach on the California coast.
“It’s exciting and a little scary to start your own company,” Sher admits—though not for a lack of experience in the theater world. Sher earned her BA in drama and English literature from Stanford University, studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and graduated from the Neighborhood Playhouse acting school in NYC. She worked extensively in theaters in Palo Alto (she performed at TheatreWorks as a high-schooler), New York and Key West before moving to Sacramento in 1990 where she immediately found a home at The Show Below (now the W. J. Geery Theater in the basement of the Pease Conservatory of Music at 22nd and L streets).
Adrienne Sher has performed or directed at pretty much every theater company in town, and both she and Actors’ Equity Association member Rhatigan have taught theater for years. Rhatigan also co-founded Acting Against Aging, a nonprofit theater arts program for seniors designed to promote healthy cognitive aging. He started the company in New York and, upon moving to California, operated it at Sierra 2 Senior Center in Curtis Park and Davis Senior Center.
After more than four long decades in the business, the couple—who dated in the ‘80s, went their separate ways for years and then reconnected 10 years ago—decided it was time to make their own mark.
“We really just want to be able to work together and work with our friends,” Sher explains. Those friends include longtime pal and beloved Sacramento actress Martha Omiyo Kight, who’s a member of the Black Point board, as well as the company’s webmaster. “We gravitate toward plays that examine the human experience, and offer hope and relatable characters. The ‘edgy new work’ niche is filled, so we want to present a balanced season of plays we love—our dream shows.”
Because Sher and Rhatigan are also educators, they hope Black Point can provide a place for young, aspiring actors to apprentice, though not in the “we own you for a year” way that other companies operate, Sher explains.
As for the location, Sher says they plan to remain nomadic for the time being, citing the common stumbling block, “We can’t find the right building,” as a way for artists to put off creating their own companies.
Sher and Rhatigan chose California Stage for “The Field” for its ability to accommodate a large set that includes a full Irish pub, and they have plans to try out Black Box Theater in West Sacramento in the future. But no matter where they roam, Sher and Rhatigan’s main goal is to pass on their passion and knowledge.
“We’ve been in Sacramento 30 years,” Sher says. “We want to get onstage and play with people.”
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.