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A Round Up of Sonoma County Live Theaters

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A Round Up of Sonoma County Live Theaters 

By Jonathan Fisher

When it comes to live theatre, the show that everyone wants to to see is Hamilton. Unfortunately, getting a ticket to that show is nearly impossible.There’s so much amazing theater right here in Sonoma County. Why wait months to see America’s founding fathers rapping when you can indulge your theatrical sensibilites this weekend? The following is a round up of Sonoma County’s prodigious live theaters. 

Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg

The Raven used to be a movie theater and now provides audience members with a pretty sizeable space to watch the Raven’s live productions in a building that has always been meant as an entertainment venue. The Raven Players present at least one musical, one comedy, and one new play for each season as well as their “Raven 24/7” event in which seven playwrights, seven directors, and seven actors along with inspiration from the audience have 24 hours to write seven plays and perform them the next day. The theater also puts on annual “Mr. Healdsburg” and “Dancing with the Stars” shows as fundraisers. Raven Performing Arts Theater seeks to put community first and hosts multiple functions beyond their regular performances to engage with schools and people in the area.

Sonoma Arts Live Theater Company

Formerly the Sonoma Theatre Alliance, a co-op of multiple companies, the group has just this year become its own full-fledged company that seeks to bring high quality theatre to the town of Sonoma. The organization tries to offer a little bit of everything and give the community something they might not see somewhere else. They present their productions in Sonoma Community Center’s Andrews Hall, which the company has helped to renovate. The hall offers the opportunity for the actors to both perform on the stage as well as some of the center floor space, which gives the audience a unique way of watching the show. Even the lobby areas are taken advantage of and are filled with decorations keeping with the theme of each performance to help you enter the world of the show right as you walk in.

Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse

Performing since 2005 and is described by Craig A. Miller and Jared Sakren, 6th Street’s executive artistic director and executive director, respectively, as “a place of constant celebration of life and art.” The group strives towards providing high quality theatrical art to the community by performing plays and musicals both new and old in two different spaces, their G.K. Hardt Theatre and Studio Theatre. What adds a special aspect to watching the performances is the fact that the playhouse used to be the old Del Monte cannery. As you sit surrounded by the brick walls of the theatre, you feel like you’re in a piece of Santa Rosa history.

Curtain Call Theatre in Monte Rio

Curtain Call puts their energy into presenting plays that give the audience something to think about after leaving the show. These include well-renowned plays like Dancing at Lughnasa and Moliére’s Tartuffe. The company performs at Russian River Hall, which has been around since the 1930’s but was spruced up a little bit once Curtain Call began ownership of the space while at the same time maintaining a lot of the hall’s original design and feel. Curtain Call’s philosophy is all about appreciating the gifts that each and every person can bring to the table, and the organization’s goal is to create an environment of self-confidence and teamwork for its volunteer workers and present good content for its audience.

The Imaginists

The Imaginists are a performance troupe whose home base is a storefront theatre space in Santa Rosa. They explore the different possibilities of what can be done with theatre beyond the traditional. From productions of unique perspectives on classic stories to performances of social commentary plays a lot of people probably have not seen before, the Imaginists take advantage of theatre’s ability to share and interact with different ideas. The group does a lot to engage with the community and non-profits including one noteworthy project called The Art is Medicine Show in which the performers ride bikes to different Migrant Education summer school sites, Redwood Empire Food Bank summer lunch sites, and city parks and provide a free show in both Spanish and English that features poetry, music, and puppetry in repertory with another bilingual play that changes from year to year.

Get a Clue Productions

Get a Clue is an interactive murder mystery dinner theatre experience. The company does public shows primarily at Charlie’s Restaurant in Windsor as well as other local restaurants. They are also available for hire to perform at private parties and get-togethers. Get a Clue offers two different kinds of performances: one in which the audience are the characters in their own murder mystery game and are guided by four professional actors throughout the evening and another in which the actors perform a scripted murder mystery and the audience participates. The scripted plays are all original works by a local script writer in the company, so there are new shows constantly being written and premiering. It is all about offering a fun, unique experience to sit back, relax, eat, and enjoy a show.

Shakespeare in the Cannery

 This annual summer project is a collaboration of Vacant Lot Productions and the Arlene Francis Center for Spirit, Art and Politics. They add a twist to the “Shakespeare in the Park” experience by performing in the ruins of the former California Packing Company’s Plant No. 5 on 3rd Street at Railroad Suare. Patrons are able to have the option to come early, picnic, and enjoy the summer weather before the show and then see the space transformed over the course of the performance as the sun goes down and the stage lights come up. Getting to see a Shakespeare play performed live always adds a new, interesting look at the literature so many of us studied in high school (even if you’re like me and still have trouble understanding the Shakespearean English).

Transcendence Theatre Company

For the full outdoor theatre experience, buy  ticket to Broadway Under the Stars, a summer series of four concerts at Jack London State Historic Park. Each is an array of musical numbers put on by performers from Broadway and beyond, including performances of well-known show tunes and top 40 hits with complementary choreography with a portion of the proceeds donated to keep the park maintained. Like “Shakespeare in the Cannery,” the park opens up a couple hours before the concert for the patrons to enjoy a pre-show picnic along with a pre-show performance. Local food and wine vendors offer many options for people to choose from for their meals. When the time of the concert arrives, the audience take their seats in the ruins of an old winery in the park and watch the concert come to life as the winery ruins transition into a theatre of its own with stage lights and everything as the sun sets. Transcendence Theatre Company is also very much about engaging with the community and offers multiple other projects and events throughout the year such as a holiday show at the Luther Burbank Center. The company seeks to provide people with moments of transcendence both on and off the stage and empower them to have the best life ever.

So as you can see, Sonoma County certainly has a lot of options to keep us busy while we wait to get Hamilton tickets. What makes these local theatre companies even more special for us in Sonoma County is that they are here to serve us specifically, and they need our help to thrive. After all, a show just isn’t a show without the audience. So go out and explore. Take advantage of the theatrical possibilities that each organization has to offer and maybe even see how you can help through donations, volunteer work, or just going to see a show or two. My descriptions barely scratch the surface of the numerous projects and education opportunities that are available among these companies. In fact, there is so much local theatre to go around, I couldn’t even fit it all in one article! Stay tuned for more in the next issue. Until then, don’t throw away your shot at seeing what Sonoma County theatre has to offer.