Real Live Theater

Archive for the ‘Places and Spaces’ Category

Sonoma County Repertory Theater

In Places and Spaces on August 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

By Kim Taylor

Sonoma County Repertory Theater

Sonoma County Repertory Theater

SEBASTOPOL, CA – Traveling down North Main Street in the little hamlet of Sebastopol, California one could easily pass by one of its most valued treasures.

Built in the 1870’s, the storefront location at 104 N. Main Street was originally the town’s general store. Today, this vintage gem is an intimate 80-seat theater venue and home of the Sonoma County Repertory Theater.

Founded in 1993 as the Main Street Theater, its first production, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest,” set the standard for professional quality theater in Sonoma County.

In 1995, a second theater was opened in Santa Rosa, prompting a name change to Sonoma County Repertory Theater, fondly referred today by locals as “The Rep.” Economic challenges of operating two theaters forced the closing of the Santa Rosa location in 2000.

But, the best things do come in small packages. During the past decade the theater company has garnered respect and accolades with bold play selections and a talented roster of company players.

Without a wing space or fly system, the artistic staff of the Sonoma County Repertory Theater takes a positive approach at its main stage location with creative and inventive staging. Storage is located at an off-site facility, but administration offices and dressing rooms are conveniently located on the second floor, above the theater.

During the summer months the Sonoma County Repertory Theater can spread its wings, its vision and its audiences presenting its annual Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival with outdoor productions at Sebastopol’s Ives Park, also located downtown at 7400 Willow Street.

Featuring beautiful trees surrounding the stage, easy accessibility and a large grass area, the park venue can accommodates over 300 patrons each performance. The Ives Park location offers a family-friendly environment and Sonoma County tourists a fun, cultural destination, making The Rep’s Shakespeare fest a favorite Sebastopol summer tradition.

Sonoma County Repertory Theater has an annual audience of about 10,000 patrons. The theater company presents seven to eight productions per year including its critically acclaimed annual holiday presentation of “A Christmas Carol” and two productions for its annual Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival.

Sonoma County Repertory Theater also serves over 5,000 young people annually through its arts education and outreach programs.

Additional information about Sonoma County Repertory Theater can be found at www.The-Rep.com.

Mary Gannon-Graham and Wendel Wilson in Midsummer Night's Dream at Sonoma County Repertory Festival's Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival 2009

Mary Gannon-Graham and Wendel Wilson in Midsummer Night's Dream at Sonoma County Repertory Festival's Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival 2009

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:

Forest Meadows Amphitheatre

In Places and Spaces on July 3, 2009 at 5:12 am

By Kim Taylor

The Comedy of Errors at Forest Meadows in 1992 (Photo courtesy of Marin Shakespeare Company)

The Comedy of Errors at Forest Meadows in 1992 (Photo courtesy of Marin Shakespeare Company)

MARIN COUNTY, CA – One can swear by the moon, the constant moon as it rises over Forest Meadows Amphitheatre located on the campus of Dominican University of California in San Rafael, where the stage was carefully designed and constructed to showcase a full moon rising directly above the players and audiences during the summer months.

The outdoor amphitheater, located in a meadow filled with trees and a creek, is noted as California’s first purpose built Shakespearean amphitheater. The venue was completed 1967 to provide a new home for Marin Shakespeare Festival, which relocated from the Redwood Amphitheatre at the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross. Unfortunately, the Marin Shakespeare Festival took its final bow in 1972.

In the summer of 1989 Robert and Lesley Currier received a recruitment call from a small but devoted group of community minded Marin residents hoping to resurrect a summer Shakespeare theater festival at the Forest Meadows Amphitheater location.

By August 1990, the Marin Shakespeare Company was established and presented its first production, “As You Like It.”

During its past twenty seasons at Forest Meadows, the Marin Shakespeare Company has received countless honors including Dean Goodman Choice Awards; San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle awards and nominations; the Marin Magazine Editors’ Choice award; the Pacific Sun’s Best of Marin Award; and the Bohemian’s Boho Award.

Today the venue is also used for Dominican University graduation ceremonies and other school graduations and various events. Marin Shakespeare Company also uses the amphitheater space for a limited number of classes each summer.

But, the venue has its challenges. Despite its natural intimacy, noise can travel from Highway 101 and sometimes be heard within the seating area. It’s something the Marin Shakespeare Company would love to correct. More than forty years old, the venue could also benefit from upgraded restrooms, pathways, lighting and seating. And because the venue doesn’t have a lobby the Marin Shakespeare Company builds a new lobby area each season using hay bales and portable buildings.

Despite all its flaws, there’s something special about that man in the moon spotlighting the Forest Meadows stage.

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:

6th Street Playhouse

In Places and Spaces on June 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm

By Kim Taylor

6th Street Playhouse architectural drawing (Paul Gilger, Architect)

6th Street Playhouse architectural drawing (Paul Gilger, Architect)

SONOMA COUNTY, CA – A theatrical marriage took place in Santa Rosa in February, 2005 when two established theater companies, The Santa Rosa Players and Actors Theatre, joined forces and moved into the newly renovated 6th Street Playhouse and presented their first joint production. Jerry Herman’s popular and beloved musical Mame was performed to sell out crowds.

In less than five years the newly formed theater company, which adopted the name of the 6th Street Playhouse, has garnered critical acclaim for its productions and West Coast premieres, received preservation awards, theatrical award nominations and noted internationally for revered talent on its main stage.

The 6th Street Playhouse partnership between the Santa Rosa Players and Actors Theatre was formed in 2004. Managed by one board of directors, the 6th Street Playhouse venue emerged from the renovated 107-year old Del Monte cannery. The renovation project received the City of Santa Rosa Award for Cultural Enrichment and the Sonoma County Historical Society Award for Preservation of a Historical Building.

American architect, set designer and playwright Paul Gilger of Sonoma County, orchestrated the conversion turning the large brick structure, located in the historic Railroad Square district, into a 186-seat professional, state-of-the art theater facility theater.

The project included excavation to create the seating terraces and an orchestra pit; the installation of interior walls, new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; and new theatrical equipment including sound, lighting and stage rigging. The renovation also included the installation of refurbished seats acquired from a former Santa Rosa movie theater and the tireless job of cleaning old brick.

The theater facility features a lobby, box office, wing space, lighting, rigging, scrims, flies, backdrops, storage, dressing rooms and sound booth. The main theater is an intimate venue with excellent sightlines, acoustics and flexibility. In January 2008, 6th Street Playhouse completed its 99-seat black box Studio Theatre and where it presented the West Coast premiere of Public Exposure, by Robert B. Reich.

Since its debut in 2005, the 6th Street Playhouse has flourished presenting full seasons in both theaters including popular musicals, American classics, comedies, the avant-garde and productions featuring the students of its School of Drama. The 2008 6th Street Playhouse production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman received international attention as it featured noted actor of stage and screen, Daniel Benzali, in the role of Willy Loman.

In 2009, the 6th Street Playhouse received six outstanding award nominations from the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics’ Circle.

Additional information about 6th Street Playhouse can be found at www.6thStreetPlayhouse.com.

6th Street Playhouse architectural drawing (Paul Gilger, Architect)

6th Street Playhouse architectural drawing (Paul Gilger, Architect)

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:

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 www.CinnabarTheater.org.

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:

The Spreckels Performing Arts Center

In Places and Spaces on February 27, 2009 at 8:57 pm

By Kim Taylor

Submitted photo of Spreckels banners

Submitted photo of Spreckels banners

SONOMA COUNTY, CA – Banners fly proudly for performing arts in the Sonoma County town of Rohnert Park.

Music, dance, theater and arts education thrive in its comprehensive cultural center, the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, located at 5409 Snyder Lane.

Built in 1990, the Spreckels Performing Arts Center is the only facility of its kind in Northern California. With its three venues, the center offers a variety of quality programming at affordable prices for residents of Rohnert Park and Sonoma County, Bay Area residents and those visiting the Wine Country region.

The Nellie W. Codding Theatre, featuring a classic proscenium stage with an orchestra pit cover that can be raised to stage height, seats 500. The Bette Condiotti Experimental Theatre, a classic “black box” theater, seats up to 125 patrons. The third venue space, an outdoor lawn and fountain area, is often used for outdoor events.

The Codding Theatre features a state-of-the-art sound system and control/recording booth; a complex lighting system and control booth; and an orchestra pit spanning the width of the stage, a 45 foot wide cyclorama. In addition, it features a hardwood sprung floor and dressing rooms with bathroom and shower facilities and comfortable green rooms. Although the Codding Theatre lacks is a fly system, the ample wing space helps to meet the challenge of multiple set shows. The Condiotti “black box” offers creative advantages with flexible seating that can be arranged in different configurations allowing works to be presented in the round, three-quarter or with traditional proscenium staging.

For the Pacific Alliance Stage Company (PASCO), the resident theater company at Spreckels, both theaters provide modern and interesting options for presenting captivating theatrical seasons.

A dominant player on the North Bay theater scene for over nineteen years, PASCO is an Equity Signatory company that offers a range of programming including American classics, Broadway musicals, the edgy and thought provoking plays; solo performance; and world premiere productions. PASCO has garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards for its artistic achievements in acting, directing, scenic and lighting design.

For enjoyment of performing arts in Rohnert Park, let the banners lead you to the Spreckels Performing Arts Center.

More information about Spreckels Performing Arts Center can be found at www.spreckelsonline.com.

Spreckels Performing Arts Center photo by Kim Taylor

Spreckels Performing Arts Center photo by Kim Taylor

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:

Belrose Theatre

In Places and Spaces on February 3, 2009 at 2:43 am

by Kim Taylor

Belrose Theatre photo by Kim Taylor

Belrose Theatre photo by Kim Taylor

MARIN COUNTY, CA – The Belrose Theatre in San Rafael has to be one of the most charming venues in Marin County. The three-story building, which still features its original design as a church, is a multi-function building with a costume shop on the basement level, a Victorian style cabaret theater that doubles as a dance studio and school on the main level. Hidden from the main street entrance, is a charming two level apartment featuring a rooftop greenhouse.

In December 1913, 1415 Fifth Avenue in San Rafael was the site of the new church of the parishioners of St. Matthew’s German Church. It cost a mere $5,000 to build the church structure, which featured a bell tower and stained glass windows. In 1942, the Trinity Lutheran Congregation purchased the Fifth Avenue church which served their parishioners for 20 years.

In 1962, David and Margie Belrose, the owners of Belrose Studio Theatre School of Dance and Performing Arts in San Rafael, were searching for warehouse space that would allow them to expand their school. Instead, a church for sale caught their eye. After buying Trinity Lutheran Church, the couple transformed the church space into a dance studio, theater and home for themselves and their two children.

In 1971, her husband David Belrose died unexpectedly. Margie continued to run the dance and theatrical school, producing plays and expanding her business while raising her son and daughter. Over the years, a variety of youth and adult productions have been presented at the Belrose including Oliver, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan and The Lion in Winter, plus a variety of vaudeville and cabaret productions and a weekly Open Mic Night.

Today, Margie Belrose continues at the helm producing plays and cabaret dinner shows. She also operates a successful costume shop which she opened in 1977. After more than 50 years, Belrose continues to offer instruction in ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom and swing dancing and theater training.

Margie Belrose has established Belrose Theatre as one of Marin’s many blessings and a mainstay of its entertainment scene.

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:

The Mountain Play’s Sidney B. Cushing Amphitheatre

In Places and Spaces on January 1, 2009 at 12:13 am

by Kim Taylor

The Sidney B. Cushing Amphitheatre on opening day of the Mountain Play’s 2004 production of “My Fair Lady.”  Photo by Kim Taylor

The Sidney B. Cushing Amphitheatre on opening day of the Mountain Play’s production of “My Fair Lady.” Photo by Kim Taylor

MARIN COUNTY, CA – The Bay Area’s highest theatrical experience can be found at the Sidney B. Cushing Amphitheatre located a top Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley. Home venue for the Mountain Play Association, this beautiful outdoor amphitheater is located approximately 2,500 feet overlooking the Golden Gate and San Francisco skyline.

Since its official opening day on May 4, 1913, thousands have trekked up Mount Tamalpais for an afternoon of theatrical entertainment featuring jaw dropping surprises and special elements and effects including horses, stagecoaches, World War II planes and even the Wicked Witch flying overhead.

The location’s theatrical life began when San Francisco lawyer John C. Catlin, U.C. Berkeley drama professor Garnet Holme and experienced Mt. Tam hiker “Dad” O’Rourke were hiking on Mt. Tam and paused to take in the view.  Holme saw what he said later was “the perfect place for an outdoor theater.”

The three made plans to produce and present a play. Catlin advanced the money, O’Rourke got the support of hiking clubs and Holme recruited a cast from his drama classes for a production of Abraham and Isaac. Twelve hundred people attended the opening performance, some hiking from Mill Valley and others riding the mountain railroad known as the “crookedest railway in the world.”

In 1914, The Mountain Play Association was established and a year later Congressman William Kent deeded the theater to the Mountain Play Association. The Cushing Memorial Theater was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The natural-stone amphitheater seats 3,750 people.

American playwright Dan Totheroh, who performed in Mountain Play productions as early as 1915, wrote Tamalpa which was presented in 1921. Totheroh eventually became director of the Mountain Plays and helped shape the destiny of the organization. Attendance had grown to the point that the 1961 production Robin Hood was presented on two successive Sundays; the first time a show had been performed in the mountain top venue more than once.
The sizable audience attendance was welcome, but it presented parking dilemma. In the 1970s members of the Mountain Play Association decided it was time for major changes for accommodating larger audiences and presenting more professional, profitable productions.

In 1977, Marilyn Smith was named producer. Smith transformed the Mountain Play Association establishing its annual outdoor presentation into a popular tradition by instituting shuttle bus service and presentations of popular and beloved Broadway musicals. In addition, Smith hired James Dunn, head of the College of Marin’s respected Drama Department, as Artistic Director. Production values improved and performances were presented over five week runs in late spring.

As it moves towards its 100th Anniversary, the Mountain Play Association is today an award-winning theater company featuring the Bay Area’s finest talent; dazzling sets, costumes, choreography and dramatic special effects and hosting 10,000 to 20,000 theatergoers each year.

The Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre is a Bay Area landmark where audiences of all ages enjoy memorable outdoor presentations of lavish Broadway shows in a beautiful outdoor setting.

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.

The Ross Valley Players’ Barn Theatre

In Places and Spaces on December 12, 2008 at 2:57 am

by Kim Taylor

Historical photo of RVP Barn Theater by Clyde H. Sunderland

Historical photo of RVP Barn Theater by Clyde H. Sunderland

MARIN COUNTY, CA – This may be hard to believe, but there are still theater troupes out there that put their shows on in “the barn.”

Take the Ross Valley Players, the oldest continuously operating community theater organization west of the Rockies, which dates back to 1930 when members of the little hamlet of Ross in Marin County established the theater group as an escape from the realities of the Depression.

The company’s first performances were given at the community room of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Other RVP venues in the 1930s included San Rafael High School and Woodland Theatre, an outdoor theater located in Kent Woodlands. Then in the early 1940s, The Ross Valley Players settled in an old barn where actors shared rehearsal space with cattle and a barn door placed across some stalls formed the stage.

Set on a hill in the beautiful Marin Art & Garden Center complex, the Barn Theatre is a two story wood structure which evolved into a 150-seat theater and the home base of the Ross Valley Players. The lobby features a display of one of the original barn doors, a historical reminder of the RVP’s humble, but earnest beginnings.

The Barn was built in the 1860s as part of the Kittle farm. During the late 1930s the barn served several functions – as shelter for livestock; a garage for the Kittle family; and storage space for Ross Valley Players costumes and props.

It was in 1940 that the barn began its transformation into a theater space with a first play reading of “Life with Father.”

It continued functioning as a working barn until 1945, when Kittle Estate became the Marin Art and Garden Center. Between 1948 and 1954, major interior renovations were made at the barn including the installation of a permanent stage in 1950s. By the 1970s, the building had stage lights, bathrooms and a small kitchen for concessions.

Over the years the Ross Valley Players has successfully completed other significant improvement projects to the Barn Theatre. Future projects include a new heating system; a complete upgrade of restroom facilities; and a reorganization of costume and storage systems that will serve the Ross Valley Players and become a resource for other community organizations.

During its 79-year history the Ross Valley Players has served as a theatrical organization where amateurs can spread their wings and practice their skills. The non-profit theatrical company presents six to eight productions each season.

In 2007, members of the S.F. Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle presented a special award to The Ross Valley Players, recognizing the theater company as one of the Bay Area’s oldest theater companies surviving without subsidies, presenting productions featuring community talent and for its “RAW” series featuring readings of new plays by local writers.

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.