Trends: Community Theater Enhances Cultural Value



Cast photo of Spring Play 2016, Keeping Down with the Joneses

Joe Messina Photography

 

My earliest recollection of performing on stage goes back to being a green dancing clock in a grade school production directed by Sister Mary Margaret. My acting "career” advanced to the lead character Elvira in my senior play Noel Coward's "Blythe Spirit" where I came back from the dead to haunt my husband and his new wife.  My mother bleached my hair platinum blond for this ghostly role. The final performance on stage was in college as a chorus girl in the musical "Half A Sixpence" where I sang and danced in a cast of 20. Awkward, since I am not really a dancer or singer.

These experiences, along with seeing numerous local, Broadway and international shows has given me a sense of real appreciation for live theatre. Benicia Old Town Theatre Group (BOTTG) was founded in 1964, and in the last 53 years the non-profit, community-based theatre group has produced over 100 plays ranging from comedy, musicals and dramatic genre. Some of my favorite performances have involved people I know, like Donna Ernst, Patty Gavin and Patti Baron, who starred in the early 1990s version of "Sugar Babies." In 1998, my son Christopher took on the role of the plant in the show "Little Shop of Horrors," wowing the crowd and his parents with his Motown voice. He was joined by a talented cast that would rival any production of this modern musical.

For the Fall Season 2017, BOTTG is presenting "Having a Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Her" ...a wild bedroom farce involving infidelity, double standards, midnight rendezvous and a hungry bear. The comedy was written by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore, directed by Ed Nattenberg. The shows are held at the Historic B.D.E.S. Hall at 140 West J Street in Downtown Benicia.

For tickets and information contact 707.746.1269 or beniciatheatregroup@me.com.

Many of the BOTTG productions have garnered coveted Arty Awards. The annual Arty Awards celebrate outstanding achievements in performing arts in Solano and Napa Counties. The regional equivalent of Broadway's Tony Awards, Artys recognize and honor youth, high school, and community theater. Now in its 33rd year, the black tie optional gala takes place September 17, 2017 at Solano College Theatre in Fairfield. BOTTG will be well represented in Adult Drama and Comedy Productions, for "Intimate Apparel" and "The Game's Afoot." Each show has garnered numerous nominations in acting, directing and technical categories.

Cast photos of Spring Play 2017, Intimate Apparel

Joe Messina Photography

Cast photo of Spring Play 2017, Intimate Apparel


Through the years, Scott and I have supported BOTTG through donations, fundraising, advocacy and reestablishing the group's nonprofit status, and were recently elected to the board as treasurer and board alternate. Attending monthly meetings has been an eye-opener. Producing two plays a year, the force behind BOTTG is a relatively small "cast" of dedicated and talented individuals who live and breathe theatre. Since there is no paid staff, volunteers cover over 43 duties to make a show happen. Auditions, publicity, costuming, set design, bar/bartending, front desk/set up, and stage and technical management are just a few of the categories covered by about 15 people:          

            Dan Clark, President
            Brian Hough, Vice President
            Dyanne Vojvoda, Secretary
            Christina Strawbridge, Treasurer
            Scott Strawbridge, Alternate
            Members at large: Pat Macleod, Janet Duhe, Natasha Harris, Veronica Bearce, Eldon Peterson. Involved volunteers include Donna Telepak, Jeff Sloan & Clinton Vidal.

Community theatre contributes to our town’s social capital. It develops the skills, community spirit and artistic sensibilities of those who participate, as producers, actors, technicians and audience members. It’s a tool that attracts an audience from around the area who enjoy escaping the realities of a world that sometimes seems stranger than fiction. See you at the theatre!

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