Theater is a central part of the entertainment scene in Santa Clarita, and rather than rehash shows that audiences have seen before, The Big Sandwich Theater Company is creating original comedic plays to bring to town.
The Big Sandwich Theater Company, which takes its name from the desire to emulate the “hammy” and “cheesy” styles of Monty Python and Carol Burnett, formed in 2016 with the performance of their first original show “Change the Station.”
Christopher Flowers, one of the founding members and a writer for The Big Sandwich, said the acting troupe was founded as a way to produce and publish original comedic plays. Flowers said the advantage of having a troupe and using the same familiar group of actors is that, as a writer and director, he already knows what each person’s strengths are and how to highlight them.
“We try to use only Santa Clarita actors when we can and when we were founded there weren’t really any acting troupes in this city of 300,000 people,” Flowers said. “There also aren’t a lot of full-length comedy plays out there, so we set out to create some that were big and crazy, hammy and cheesy.”
The Big Sandwich’s second play, “All Inclusive,” debuts Friday at The MAIN theater in Old Town Newhall. Written by Flowers and Wayne Bradford, the play follows a couple on an island anniversary getaway that goes wrong.
Sanya Arnold, who has been with The Big Sandwich since the first show, said she feels lucky to be part of the first cast to perform the show and to perform the original interpretation of her character.
“I think it’s awesome to be able to originate a character that was written with me in mind,” Arnold said. “It feels flattering to see how our writers Chris and Wade see me and the potential they see for me. Working with the people who wrote this play and my character feels very comfortable to me because I feel like I can contribute and that I can still always speak up about something I think about my character.”
Nancy Lantis, another Big Sandwich veteran, said the existence of original, locally created theater is a testament to the wealth of the community.
“We are not hunter-gatherers who have to live hand-to-mouth anymore, and Santa Clarita has grown and prospered to such a degree that the natives are looking for art,” Lantis said. “Having original art enriches the community as well as the artists. Dance and song can be very moving, but theater speaks closest to the human need for stories that we tell and live.”
Ted McGowan lives in Encino but comes to Santa Clarita to act, and said theater is a good bridge for communities since it can be appreciated by people of all backgrounds.
“There’s no local community theater where I live, and the arts are particularly important in today’s world that’s so angry and divided because you can put all these different people in a room with art and they’ll enjoy it,” McGowan said. “‘All Inclusive’ is a throwback to the slapstick Marx brothers comedies and you never really see those kinds of things on the stage. I’ve been a part of over 70 shows and a lot of funny ones, but this is the funniest I’ve ever seen.”
“All Inclusive” is scheduled to be performed at The MAIN theater in Newhall on Sept. 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and on Sept. 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online via atthemain.org and are $20 for general admission and $15 for guests under 18.