For some, the word “beatniks” may conjure up thoughts and images of creative-minded people getting together to share ideas and perform their latest prose, song, or play.
For Rip Johnson, co-founder of Hammond’s Beatniks on Conkey, that definition may very well be accurate.
“When we formed Beatniks, we wanted a place where new ideas were welcome,” he said. “If it was a new theater company or a group of people who had a play or a new idea, they could come, pitch it and maybe have a shot at getting it onstage.”
In January 2008, Johnson and his wife, Bonnie Johnson, opened Beatniks doors for the first time. Located in Hammond at 418 Conkey St., the Johnsons created Beatniks to provide Hammond Community Theatre a venue for its multiple annual productions as well as for the Johnsons to create their own troupe.
Over the years, Beatniks’ annual February fundraisers based around readings of “The Vagina Monologues,” holiday dance, song and skit showcase and Halloween-themed October thrillers have become tradition for Beatniks’ onstage regulars and audiences.
Additionally, Hammond Community Theatre continues to call Beatniks home after nearly a decade, with the Johnsons occasionally lending their thespian skills, and they have also allowed a variety of upstart area performance companies to stage their original shows.
Beatniks also has seen Region-based live music favorites grace its stage and, a couple years ago, taken over the space at 420 Conkey St., where dance and improv classes are regularly held in a location they refer to as “The Other Side.”
“Our greatest accomplishment is the size of the Beatniks family,” Johnson said. “It’s grown to include so many people, both in the audience and participants: actors, directors and tech crew. It has grown over the years so much.”
On Jan. 13, Beatniks will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a party and preview showcase. Early 2018 productions include the annual February “Monologues” benefit and the comedy “Funny Little Thing Called Love,” slated to open in June.
We try and pick things that are both entertaining and artistic,” Johnson said. “I think we put on a pretty good show. I think our directors and acting crews are as good as any theater.
Additionally, Hammond Community Theatre will close out 2017 with the Christmas drama “You Better Watch Out,” Starting Dec. 8 , and kick off 2018 with the Agatha Christie mystery “The Uninvited Guest, scheduled to open Feb. 9.