Derek Sitter loves his family, excellent movies, fine microbrews and theater so powerful you have to wash off when you get home.
“I’m not going to stop until I’m under your skin,” says Sitter.
As early as 1995, his dream was to produce fringe\pub theater in an environment where the actors surrounded you, manifesting their art in a casual space where you can come in, grab a beer and be swept up in the moment.When Sitter moved to Bend from Los Angeles with his wife Jeanne in 2007, he had two goals: to raise their daughter away from LA and to have the freedom to do theater on his own terms.
With the upcoming opening of Volcanic Theater PUB in the Century Center, he finally has that opportunity. Though the pub isn’t likely to open until this fall, the Volcanic team is hosting a fundraiser this Friday featuring a play, silent auctions and live music.
Derek Sitter, his wife, and Don Tompos, who is general manager and co-owner, share a vision that is long term and inflexible: to be the best.
They're not planning on doing your grandmother's theater either. His favorite playwrights lean toward Shepard, Mamet, Pinter and other dramatic realists, but he's not afraid to get his hands dirty with some Shakespeare, either.
“Of course, my King Lear will take place in a crack house in La Pine,” laughs Sitter, whose formal title at Volcanic is artistic director.
The 75-seat venue is going to be intimate in the style of a black box theater, but with no boundaries between stage and audience. The design is made up of bar seating in the back, tables in the center and a living room in the front, all graduated so there's not a bad seat in the house.
“The whole venue is the performance space. We're experiencing a play, not performing a play,” Sitter says.
Volcanic Theatre PUB won’t be about just theater, though.
Along with at least eight taps of mostly local beers, they're also going to show films on nights when plays are not scheduled. Some weeks may be themed—a Mamet play paired with Mamet films. And some months may be dedicated to the entire catalog of the Coen Brothers or John Cassavetes.
On top of that, Sitter and company is planning to host live music. The Volcanic team wants to provide as much entertainment as possible underneath their warehouse roof.
“We're going to have the best of the best. The best theater, the best music, the best movies and the best beer,” Tompos says.
Prices for everything at the venue will vary slightly, depending on the cost of rights to certain plays and films.
“We do plan on keeping beer and wine to $5 with periodic daily and weekly discounts. Movies should never exceed $5 and short plays will run $7 to $10. We plan to keep full-length plays to $15. We care much more about reaching you and enhancing the community artistic experience than the dollars we bring in,” Sitter explains.
But creating a venue for theatergoers, by theatergoers is only part of their mission.
“We're also trying to convert the folks for whom theater would never cross their minds,” Jeanne Sitter says.
As Volcanic Theatre PUB goes out of its way to please each and every soul in Central Oregon, Derek Sitter cuts through all of the hype and breaks it down for me.
“It's not a community theater, not a movie house, not a bar, not a music venue. It's a cultural sword in the gut,” He smiles, making me feel a bit like Bobby Gould.
Getting It Started: Volcanic kicks off
with Mamet's Bobby Gould in Hell
Volcanic kicks off with Mamet’s Bobby Gould in Hell
On top of auction items and raffle prizes, Avery James and the Hillandales and Jared Nelson Smith will perform. But a performance of David Mamet's one-act play Bobby Gould in Hell will be the central entertainment.
The show stars Sitter, Wayne Newcome (AKA Problem Stick), Don Tompos, Jeanne Sitter and Dave Phelps and is one of Mamet's funniest.
I watched an early rehearsal in the 10,000-square-foot event center and, even with the mammoth acoustic difficulties, they were able to pull me into the show right away.
Newcome plays Bobby Gould, a new arrival to hell, who must win a semantic battle with Derek Sitter's Devil in order to retain his soul.
Derek Sitter devoured the stage, balancing a slick salesmanship feel with moments of extreme darkness.
Newcome is so laid back and natural, there are moments where you might believe he'd actually been in hell before.
Jeanne Sitter and Tompos displayed impeccable comic timing intermingled with powerful dramatic chops, while Phelps threatens to steal the show, lumbering around as hell’s gatekeeper, Sasquatch.
Bobby Gould in Hell was a damned excellent way to spend 45 minutes and a good sample of the type of talent Volcanic Theatre PUB is bringing to the table.
Volcanic Theatre PUB
7-10pm, Friday, June 29
Century Center Event Center,
70 SW Century Drive