Finally, that has changed. “The initial concept of a partnership with BOTTG grew out of my wanting to reach out to theaters in the community to help build relationships between the various high school drama departments and community theaters,” said Nathan Day, BHS theater arts director. He discussed options with Pat MacLeod, vice president of BOTTG’s Board of Directors, building a relationship to work together. “Our partnership is in its infancy,” Nathan said. But he said BOTTG and the school are exploring ways they can work together, and said he’s “excited at the possibilities.”
Both want an ongoing working relationship that can grow through the years, he added. They’ve been cross-promoting each other’s productions, BHS’s upbeat Mamma Mia! based on music by ABBA, and the Old Town Theatre Group’s Sweat, the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about poverty and changing times in Reading, Pa.
BOTTG President Dan Clark said the partnership could cultivate a pool of performers and technicians, while his group could provide mentoring. “We feel we can expose students to practical theatrical experiences that may bridge the gap between high school and a long-term love of theater as an art form and avocation,” he said, adding that the partnership isn’t unprecedented. Between 15 and 20 years ago, BOTTG sponsored a production written, directed and performed by students at the Majestic Theater.
Since then, MacLeod has worked with students, advocating for the partnership. Sweat, “is probably not the best vehicle for a close collaboration this time due to the subject matter and explicit adult language,” Clark said, but other productions might keep students interested in live theater. “A constant theme among people who audition for us is that they may have been involved in theater in high school or college, but then got away from it for years.
A goal of the group is to provide a training ground for actors and technicians to continue to practice their crafts in the community. We aim to provide a necessary stage for that to happen,” Clark said. “We would love for young actors to feel welcome on stage as they mature, and will always encourage them to audition and otherwise be involved.”
Both Clark and Nathan spoke of the importance of live theater. “Theater has always been part of the human existence,” said Nathan. “We are, at the heart of it, all story-telling creatures who exist, communicate and evolve through our stories of the human experience.”
At Benicia High School, he said students use their theatrical experiences to pursue a career, learn confidence and self-worth, and develop perseverance and a healthy work ethic. “Live theater is crucial to any vibrant society and is probably the oldest of the art forms.”
“One can easily imagine our distant forebears sitting around a fire at night, telling of and acting out the struggles of the day and the history of the tribe,” he said. “Traditions and the mores of the society are expressed by the actors, brought into focus or examined for fault. The exchange of ideas and feelings between the stage and the audience is magical and always to be treasured.”
Sweat runs at BOTTG, 140 W. J St., April 19 to May 11. Tickets are available at beniciaoldtowntheatregroup.com.
Mamma Mia! at Benicia High School, 1101 Military West, runs April 26 to May 4. Tickets are available online at bit.ly/bhsmammamia