Fire and Flood cancels Helltown Buffet Performances

Last Friday, September 26, the building in which Rude Guerrilla Theater is located suffered a late-night fire and sprinkler-system activation that flooded the lobby and "Helltown Buffet" set. This forced the cancellation of Helltown Buffet performances for that weekend.

We hope to resume performances soon.

Rude Guerrilla's co-Artistic Director, Dave Barton, gives details about the fire in his two blog entries, used here with permission. (I've added parenthetical remarks to describe the people.)



The phone is ringing at 6:00 am and the first thing I think as I'm startled awake is that someone has died. Fortunately, that's not the case.

Seems instead that there was a fire upstairs in the Empire Building where we rent our space. Sprinklers went off, flooded the second floor, which then poured through any available cracks in the flooring, down to our ceiling, creating an inch tall pond where Rude Guerrilla's stage and lobby used to be.

Firemen look on our website because there's no posted emergency number on our front door, fire alarms have gone off and water is flooding out the front door onto the pavement outside.

They see on the website that David Beatty (company member) is teaching an acting class, so they call him, wake him up and then think they haven't actually reached him, turn off their phone (they think) and put the phone in their pocket.

So the phone's still on, David's saying "Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear me?" as he hears fire engine alarms, hears someone shouting, "Get the ax! Smash in the door!" and he's thinking ""Oh, God...Rude Guerrilla's burning down!"

And as he shouts into the phone and hears the splintering of wood and the shattering of glass, he jumps in his car and calls Jay (co-Artistic Director) and then Jay calls me.

I show up fifteen minutes later.

Water is everywhere...the theater smells wet and it feels like summer in Miami: sticky and fetid.
The "Helltown Buffet" set is water-damaged and the bottoms of the curtains soaked, but only a handful of seats are wet, amazingly enough. It look so bad that I can only imagine what would have happened if the sprinklers inside our area of the building had gone off.

As I enter, in the darkness, a bright floor light stands amid the water, David is talking to a fireman and every mop, trash can and garbage pail is full of a brown, brackish liquid as burly guys in yellow pants sweep away the water.

The lighting grid is dripping and I rush to flip off the electricity that's still being sent to the light boxes before we get a spark and the lights short-out and explode.

I call our insurance broker twice (no answer), call the building's management office (closed), call their emergency number (answering machine) and call ServePro, whose job it is to come into water and fire-damaged areas and clean up. They're the only ones that actually answer and tell me someone will be there within the hour.

I call Jay back and fill him in. I call Dawn (Maintenance Manager) asking advice on how to repair the busted door. I call Aurelio and we laugh and decide that "Helltown" is now officially cursed. ServePro tells me that we're shut down for the next 2 to 5 days because of the damage and necessary repairs. Jay calls Sharyn (director and company member) and tells her that "Our Town" rehearsals will need to be somewhere else for the next few days.

Vicki (Treasurer) moves our planned Board meeting on Sunday to her apartment.

It's now 12:30 and I've been here for six hours...I'm exhausted as hell and have no idea what will happen next.


Typing Sunday morning as the Servpro guys are punching holes in the dry wall to see if it's still wet.
Still wet, despite high force fans and dryers--as well as our heating system--on for the past 24 hours.
I'm waiting for the final verdict, but so far the answer seems to be yep, it's still wet.

I could tell that even before they got here...the reek alone as I walked in the back door told me that things were damp enough for there to be a mold concern.

And, as the building management told me yesterday, "We have insurance, so do what you have to."
So what I thought was going to take a half hour--with plans to then go to my last Board meeting for two months--means three hours and no Board meeting.

Instead...a MySpace blog!

Everything is currently being moved to the center--offices emptied, seats removed, platforms turned on their sides and it's looking like the bottom couple inches of each piece of drywall is going to be cut out and removed...

As someone who commented on the previous blog least no one got injured (a good thing), the building has insurance (another good thing) and it doesn't involve our insurance so far (another good thing).

Let the mess begin.

Helltown Buffet review by KUCI's Keith Dillon

Review from Keith Dillon's broadcast at KUCI

Helltown Buffet, September 12th through October 18th, 2008.
A production of Rude Guerrilla Theatre, 202 N. Broadway in Santa Ana, Ca.
For tickets and information, call 714-547-4688 or log on to

Halloween is here again. You can tell that by the plays being offered at the local theatres right now. Take, for example, Aurelio Locsin’s Helltown Buffet, currently running at the Rude Guerrilla Theatre in Santa Ana. Helltown Buffet is a tale involving a bitched-out succubus and her cruel-hearted demon assistant, an inept wannabe whose tendency towards romantic entanglements keeps him one horn short of full demonhood, a flamboyant coiffeur who cares not where he goes after death as long as he can dress people’s hair and an unassuming young Filipino-American boy who opens the local Hometown Buffet to murder in the name of love.

The first act of Helltown Buffet is as campy as they come. Long time Rude Guerrilla company member Aurelio Locsin gives us a first act that is a silly tale of demons and blood and epicurism. Much of it feels fairly routine, although the bit about making a buffet out of Hometown Buffet patrons is fascinating.

In Act Two, however, the play becomes beautiful. Mr. Locsin’s second act is spiced with Filipino culture. Upon his death, the play’s protagonist, Benjie, is sent to the Filipino sector of Purgatory. Mr. Locsin’s purgatory is racially segregated as it turns out. Act Two introduces traditional dances punctuated by jokes about life in America as a Filipino and funny little object lessons about the history of the Filipines. Benjie is brought back to the history that bore him. Even if he wanted to, Benjie simply cannot escape that history. His history, in fact, saves Benjie from his demon lover Paco who after all is still a demon, despite the sincerity of his affection.

Don’t kid yourself; Helltown Buffet at its roots is nothing more than Halloween camp. There is nothing profound about this play. Even as camp, it’s still a little too broad, a little too underdeveloped. The introduction of Benjie’s cultural history into the second act, however, makes it worth the ticket. I might add that on the night I came, several folks in the audience seemed to enjoy themselves throughout; all I can do is write my reactions. Anyway, the production is directed by Mr. Locsin himself; it is light-hearted and fleet of foot.

Especially notable among the cast is Alexander Price as the Etienne the hairdresser. Mr. Price plays his over-the-top hairdresser with enough wit and joy to keep his audience near tears throughout his entire performance. His explanation of the gates of purgatory is uproarious. Trina Estanislao’s Spirit is so disorientingly clueless that just about every line she speaks is a laugh line. Ms. Estanislao also dances her simple cultural dances with authority and affection. Ashley Jo Navarro is appropriately air-headed as Cloud. As Madame Loveless, Maggie Zamora is just a little too nice; Maggie, think Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty. Rick Kopps, on the other hand, plays her assistant Grom with moustache-twirling joy. David Tran is cute as Benjie, whereas Brian Chayane Salero seems out of place as Paco Johnson.

The production is fleet of foot, requiring few sets. With the exception of a curtain running upstage of the action, the sets are walk-on units like palm trees, desks and such. The decorative items deliberately look like something from a nightmare Junior Prom. The sets are uncredited. Ryan Joyner’s lights are occasionally funny, especially at places like the gates of purgatory. Sarah Boros’ costumes are an interesting blend of Hometown Buffet uniforms, leather and traditional Filipino wear. The dances are choreographed with great care by Lee Samuel Tanng and the fights Jami McCoy are well done. Camp is the taste on Halloween. Helltown Buffet is very much to that taste, but author Aurelio Locsin has both the courage and the foresight to lace his show with his own traditions. Those traditions make Act Two a thing of authentic charm.

Press Release for Helltown Buffet

For immediate release!

Rude Guerrilla presents the World Premiere of HELLTOWN BUFFET September 19! Rude Guerrilla Theater Company is pleased to announce the World Premiere of playwright Aurelio Locsin’s black comedy HELLTOWN BUFFET as the ninth production in its eleventh season. Can a Hometown Buffet manager and his hunky demon seducer fall in love through their real and imagined histories? This dark comedy propels them from Orange County to several afterlives, prompting encounters with a sexy demoness, a fabulous stylist, bewildered tribesmen, and talking trees. The production is directed by the playwright. PLEASE NOTE: This production is for mature audiences and is not for children.

The production opens Friday, September 19, 2008 and runs thru Saturday, October 18 for 14 performances at 202 N. Broadway, in Santa Ana. Show times are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm., with Sunday matinees @ 2:30 p.m. beginning September 28th. And one Thursday performance on Oct. 16 @ 8:00 pm. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and an inexpensive $10 for students with an ID. Opening champagne gala is $25.

“Hometown Buffet” is one of my favorite places to eat, even without the 99-cent coupon,” says playwright/director Locsin. “During one of these food orgies, I noticed how a huge number of larger-than-normal people left uneaten food on their plate, which the servers promptly threw away. I thought, wouldn’t it have been better to give all that food to hungry and homeless people? When I asked the employees, it turns out it was against health department regulations.

Those images put together produced the opening buffet scene in one inspired sitting. That scene remained a stand-alone short without dialog until I took it to the playwriting class of East-West Players in Los Angeles, where playwright/instructor Prince Gomolvilas advised his students to write the first scene of the play and then continue with the ending of the play before filling in the remaining scenes.That unusual technique produced the script for this production.

People who specialize in such things will find all kinds of symbolism, social commentary, and educational messages in HELLTOWN BUFFET, but my main goal was to create something fun and entertaining for the audience. If anything more than that comes out, it’s a happy accident.”

The cast of nine includes RGTC members Alexander Price (last seen in CHAIR) and R.J. Romero (last seen in CLOWNZILLA). Returning is Frank Aranda (last seen in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS), Trina Estanislao (last seen in MAN OF LA MANCHA), Adam J. Ferry (last seen in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS), and Rick Kopps (last seen in NOCTURNE). Making their debut on the Rude Guerrilla stage is Ashley Jo Navarro, Brian Chayane Salero, David Tran and Maggie Zamora.

HELLTOWN BUFFET’s choreography is by Assistant Director Lee Samuel Tanng, Costumes are by Sarah Boros, Lighting Design is by Ryan Joyner, Sound and Projection Design by Aurelio Locsin, and Stage Manager is Brenda Kenworthy.

If you'd like to arrange an interview with the cast or director, or want more information, reservations or complimentary press passes, please call 714-547-4688, send us an email at or visit Rude Guerrilla’s website at