Real Live Theater

Posts Tagged ‘Marin County’

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:

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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.