The Magic of Benicia Old Town Theater

BOTTG's playbill ad for Laura

It is said that theater is magic…

…and it couldn’t be more true for the Benicia Old Town Theater Group, a staple in this community for 56 years! Known by the acronym, BOTTG, the not for profit theater was founded in 1964. It is run by volunteers, and has survived through the years because of the hard work and dedication of those who love theater. And what’s not to love? Theater immerses the audience in a completely different world, right before your eyes. Nothing compares to experiencing a live action show. The audience becomes engaged in the play or musical onstage, and the actor’s performance is fueled by this audience connection. I’ve been on both sides of this…as an audience member, and as a performer for BOTTG. My memories of these special times are filled with delight. I remember well my fellow performers, the rehearsals, the sets and costumes coming to life, the excitement of opening nights, and the wonderfully creative energy of the volunteers that made all of the aspects of the production come together. Magic!

Recently, the  BOTTG theater community, and the City of Benicia, lost one of those dedicated,  energized volunteers, Dan Clark. Dan passed away last October, but his legacy continues at the theater where he first became involved in 1972. Devoted to BOTTG along with his wife, Dyanne Vojvoda, Dan was the compelling force behind the theater for 30 some years. He held every conceivable position, serving on the Board of Directors, directing, acting in over 25 productions, building sets, and managing the house. Dan, with his commanding presence, tirelessly promoted the theater he loved at every turn in his kind, friendly manner.

Over the years BOTTG has not shied away from a diversity of productions.

Their Mission Statement, “to promote community theater by bringing a wide variety of high quality theatrical entertainment to Benicia, Solano County, and the surrounding community,” is taken seriously. Comedies, dramadies, rom-coms, dramas, and musicals have all come to life onstage. Many individuals have received ARTY awards in directing, acting, set, lighting, costume design, and sound. For 35 years the ARTY awards have honored outstanding achievements in the performing arts in Solano and Napa Counties. In the last 8 years, BOTTG has won 30 ARTY’s, including best comedy, best drama, and in 2019, an award went to “Sweat” for Outstanding Production.

In addition, BOTTG strives to “promote training in all aspects of theatrical arts, allowing aspiring performers and behind the scenes volunteers to learn, practice, and perfect their craft.”

To that end, the theater is always looking for volunteers. Their monthly meetings are open to the public, held every second Tuesday. all 707.746.1269 for location.

This season, BOTTG chose a theme for its Fall and Spring plays, “BOTTG goes to the movies.” Both plays were made into films in the 1940’s.  “Born Yesterday,” staged last fall,  and the current spring production, “Laura,” feature strong female characters. Both plays are directed by women. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment (women’s right to vote) this August, this is a nod to the empowerment of women. This is especially important as  women continue to be underrepresented in the theater. “Laura,”, a murder mystery, is directed by Chloe Bronzan, who has directed a number of productions throughout the Bay Area. “She will bring a fresh interpretation, a modern eye to this noir play,” said Laura Paoletti of the BOTTG Board. “Laura” opens on April 17th, with a Gala  event planned. Before the play begins attendees will enjoy live jazz music, champagne, and heavy appetizers. The Gala is a fundraiser event, the proceeds to fund constantly increasing expenses. The theater also has an ongoing project of replacing the lighting system. Another noteworthy evening will be the “Meal Deal” night where show-goers can enjoy a pre-paid dinner and show special. Venticello’s, on First Street, right around the corner from the theater, will provide an especially delicious pre-show dinner. 

As Dan Clark often wrote, “Live theater is a precious cultural resource. Every vibrant society has theater as a reflection of its artistic core; a mirror of its history, mores, and values,” Dan’s insight continues to live on at the Benicia Old Town Theater Group. Come, join the MAGIC!

“Laura” runs April 17-May 9th. Fridays and Saturdays 8:00 p.m., Sunday Matinees, 2:00 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.beniciaoldtowntheatregroup.com, or at the Benicia Chamber of Commerce, or at the door. Cost: $40.00 for the Gala event, $45.00 for the Meal-Deal night. All other shows: General admission is $22.00, Seniors and Students, $20.00. 

Performances  are at the historic BDES Hall, 140 West J St.      

 

Edit: Due to the expanded restrictions in response to COVID-19, this production has been postponed to October. Stay tuned for more information.

Categories: Arts + Culture, Check it out, Community, People + Places, Things to Do

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