Real Live Theater

Cinnabar Theater

In Places and Spaces on April 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm

by Kim Taylor

Cinnabar Theater photo by Scott Hess Photography

Cinnabar Theater photo by Scott Hess Photography

SONOMA COUNTY, CA – Cinnabar Theater, sometimes referred to as “the charming little theater on the hill”, was originally built in 1908 as a Mission Revival style schoolhouse.

The transformation of the schoolhouse into Sonoma County’s only venue producing opera and musical theater, dramatic theater, chamber series, dance and special festivals sprouted in the imaginative mind of a North Dakota farm boy named Marvin Klebe.

In a 1998 Sonoma County Independent article Klebe said, “In the summertime, you’d go around and around the field on the tractor. So there I was, with the muffler blazing, just singing away.”

Klebe went on to become a successful classically trained baritone, working as an international opera singer who performed with San Francisco Opera and was featured at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds. The grand opera scene became disenchanting for Klebe who fretted that it offered “too little rehearsal and innovation [and was] too traditional, very regimented with no regard for the needs of a family.”

So, Marvin and his wife Jan bought the little school house on the hill in 1970. With carpentry skills and the help of his four sons, the building was turned into a theater with the goal of creating a performance venue for the local community to collaborate and experiment. Klebe invited like minded artists from other disciplines to join him in that mission. Performing artists, dancers, opera singers and musicians and actors inspired and supported each other to achieve that goal.

Cinnabar Arts Corporation received its nonprofit status in 1974 and nine years later established Cinnabar Young Repertory Theater and remodeled the venue to accommodate Cinnabar’s growing audience. In 1986, Nina Shuman joined Cinnabar Theater as Music Director.

After Klebe’s death in 1999, the Cinnabar Theater continued under the leadership of his friend and protégée Elly Lichenstein, wife Jan and son, Aloysha Klebe, who now serves as Technical Director.

Cinnabar Theater offers an intimate experience in its 99-seat theater with audience pleasing and critically acclaimed performances of opera, theater, Youth Theater, choral ensembles, the Petaluma Summer Music Festival and associate performing artists.

Additional information about Cinnabar Theater is available at

A former entertainment calendar editor and features writer at the Marin Independent Journal, Kim Taylor, combined her media experience and appreciation for arts and entertainment and established herself as a successful and award-winning publicist.

Additional articles by Kim Taylor include:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: