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Dry Gulch Theatre welcomes expression of all kinds

Members of the Dry Gulch Theatre of Anarchy watch a performance on Monday, July 14. Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
Donald Pitts plays guitar at the Dry Gulch Theatre of Anarchy on Monday, July 14.
Ed O’Neill (left) and Laura Sporn perform a scene during the Dry Gulch Theatre of Anarchy’s meeting.
Kevin Burns (left) acts our a scene with Ako Eyong.
Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
2:57 pm PDT July 21, 2014

As the organizer of Malibu’s Dry Gulch Theatre of Anarchy, Tommi Trudeau’s Monday evenings are filled with entertainment in the most unexpected of places.

“You can get up there and tell us what you had for lunch if you want to,” Trudeau said, laughing. 

“And we’ll sit there and think, ‘Hmmm, delicious! But I shouldn’t be eating that,’” added Trish Van Devere, Dry Gulch Theatre member and seasoned actress. 

Although the weekly get-togethers are labeled “scene studies,” classical Shakespearian scenes — Trudeau’s specialty — are just the tip of the iceberg. The Dry Gulch Theatre has been known to feature anything and everything — from ukulele solos to stand-up comedy acts — the only rule being that the environment remain one “where everyone can be fearless,” Trudeau said. 

“Tommi is no tyrant,” Van Devere said. “It’s amazingly democratic and everybody loves everybody. We get together as a family of artists.”

But for Trudeau, fostering creativity and openness is just as much about the people you surround yourself with as it is the physical environment you immerse yourself in. That’s where Carter Ward’s Dry Gulch Ranch — located deep in the Malibu mountains off of Yerba Buena Road — comes in.

Ward became a member of the Monday night scene studies when the group was meeting regularly at the Point Dume Club after a brief stint at the Malibu Inn. 

“Carter said, ‘why are we meeting here when I have this place?’” Trudeau said. “I told the members where it was and they all said no. I told them, ‘we’re going anyway. You can follow us if you like.’ They all did.”

Since the big move, Trudeau, Ward and Van Devere feel the group has found its true home. Their performances are held in an old west-style saloon, complete with a stage and back entrance, which Ward originally built on his property in 1993 as a location for film and television shoots.

“The saloon, for me, has kind of been a field of dreams,” Ward said. “I’ve been up there for 33 years. It’s just great to see all these people come and enjoy what I’ve built out here.”

Ward is the poster child for the kind of theatre that Trudeau advocates for within the group. With no professional training, Ward has evolved to lead performances of his own material, both comedic and dramatic, in front of an audience that ranges in size from 10-27 people.    

“Its’ an environment where you can feel safe to do whatever you like; the group is the teacher,” Trudeau said. “There were some naysayers to that technique, but have seen some novice actors come leaps and bounds. They have blossomed.”

On the other end of the spectrum exists Trudeau, who Van Devere said “dreams in Shakespeare.” A current resident of Malibou Lake, Trudeau hails from New Mexico and has been a classical actor for decades. He decided to relocated to the Los Angeles area to pursue his dream acting on a greater scale. 

“I got here with $5 in my pocket and I started over,” Trudeau said. “My brother said to me, ‘when you left for LA, having nothing but that old beat up Ford Escort, I was certain you’d end up living under a bridge,’ Well, I didn’t do too bad.”

Although the group is just over a year old, Trudeau believes it will only continue to grow. By remaining completely free and welcoming performers and guests of all kinds, even those who don’t wish to get up on stage, Trudeau hopes to keep the soul of the group pure and focused on expression and creativity. 

“Together we become better and better and better; this is how the group raises its own bar,” Trudeau said. “It’s our own little world. We’ve got the coolest thing to do on a Monday anywhere in Malibu.”

The Dry Gulch Theatre of Anarchy’s scene studies are at 7 p.m. every Monday. 

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