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Theatre of Passion, Theatre of Survival: The Empty Space Thrives Off the Passion of its Patrons

By Paul Rowe

The Empty Space's vision is to provide passionate and professional quality live theater for the community of Bakersfield, California. At The Empty Space, local actors, directors, designers, and technicians come together to put on the kind of enduring spectacles that Bakersfield theatergoers treasure. From the start, the ultimate goal was to provide an affordable theatre without sacrificing character.

"Our founder, Brian Sivesind, wanted to open a theatre that was affordable, so that no one had an excuse not to see live theatre," Artistic Director Bob Kempf said. "Brian also wanted the productions to be of high quality, so he recruited the best local theatre people he knew to be part of the organization."

The meeting of such eminent minds was electric, and that energy hasn't died down for over a decade and counting. The will to create and the drive to engage the audience in the unbridled ecstasy of each show continually inspires each and every person involved in production. At The Empty Space, audiences reel in terror, delight, surprise, and melancholy night in and night out. Don't let the name fool you: this house is almost always full.

"Nothing compares to live theatre and the way it can connect so viscerally to an audience," Kempf said. "Seeing a show at The Empty Space is a unique experience because it is an intimate venue, seating less than a hundred people. For an audience member, being so close to the action and witnessing the events of a play from such a viewpoint can be a revelation."

It's not just plays and musicals, either. The Empty Space has put on a plethora of astonishing art exhibitions.

"It's always a surprise to see what art and artists are featured in The Empty Space gallery," Kempf said. "Past exhibits have been beautiful, provocative, whimsical, shocking, and even a combination thereof."

The visionary local artists of the Bakersfield region are given a real opportunity to fill the void at The Empty Space. These voices reverberate, join in conversation, and forge an impressive tapestry in the already-burgeoning California scene. Although entirely unique in their own visions, they have one thing in common: the passion to survive and thrive.

"From the start, we wanted to have a wide range of productions: from musicals to Shakespeare, American classics to cutting-edge contemporary plays," Kempf said. "The by-word was always 'passion'. Each production must have passion behind it."

This passion has kept the spirit of the theatre alive and well for the last 4,000 years, endowing communities like Bakersfield with meaningful intensity.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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