….The Acting Company was originally called Theater ’86, a name chosen with the naive optimism that by that date a new home for the performing arts would be financed and built on B Street, west of Yuba City High School. The founders, Curt Schroeder, Pat Hill and Dexter Black, never envisioned that the organization they started would become a community theater. And when it did, it was only out of necessity. The impetus for Theater ’86 was the need for a performing arts center in the Yuba-Sutter area. The organizing committee included: Curt Schroeder, Dexter Black, Beryl Burtis and Joan Young. The first order of business for the fledgling group was to incorporate as a nonprofit charitable organization which they did on with the assistance of local attorney Perry Parker. The first official board of Theater ’86 was: Curt Schroeder, President; Dexter Black, Vice President; Joan Young, Secretary; Beryl Burtis, Treasurer; Pat Hill, Mike Vinsonhaler, Laura Gobel, Iola Covington, Laverne Grell, Perry Parker, Tom Pfeffer, George Garcia, Jean Cellini, David Wheeler, Monteze Hamilton, and Bill Young.
In October 1987, Theater ’86 staged its very first show, You Can’t Take It With You, in the Yuba City High School’s cafeteria. It was directed by Dexter Black. Dexter, a graduate of Stanford University, suffered an aneurysm during the run of You Can’t Take It With You and died. His dedication to the performing arts will long be remembered.
Subsequent shows were staged at The Refuge restaurant. They included Don’t Drink the Water and Harvey under the direction of Ric Young; and The Odd Couple and An Innocent Maid directed by Angie Borzalleri. Ben Morasch directed Quilters at the Yuba City Women’s Club. Still other shows were performed at Yuba City High School, Gray Avenue School and other venues. During our peripatetic existence, we continuously sought a permanent home, a frustrating quest.
It quickly became apparent that raising the necessary funds for construction of a performing arts center was a daunting task. Fund raisers would net $2,000 at most, and large donors did not come foreword because the theater group had nothing concrete to show them. Thus, a feasibility study ensued that cost close to $4,000. Funds were available for the study through a number of fund raisers, which included a Gershwin gala and a War Years (WW II) concert. The results of the study were discouraging; any arts center would require a large year around tenant. Theater ’86 tried to lure people from the community to start a theater group by offering financing but nothing seemed to work. The only choice the organization had was to become a community theater itself.
We needed a place of our own in which to store props and costumes, a space to rehearse and perform without inconveniencing others. In 1992, we struck gold. Across from Yuba City High was a building that began life as a grocery store. In its various iterations, it was a grocery store, a high school operated restaurant, a commercial restaurant, a photography studio and a deli. And then it was ours. The ink was barely dry on the lease before we made a deal with our landlord to purchase the building.
The place was a mess. Temporary walls had to come down. Concrete was jack hammered then replaced due to a leaking pipe. The foundation needed to be shored up. Restrooms needed to be installed. The dairy case and meat locker needed to be removed. There was no stage and no seating. But we had a mortgage to pay, so we rolled up our sleeves.
Our Town, directed by Curt Schroeder, was chosen as our first show since it didn’t require a set. On Fridays, we borrowed chairs for our audience from Ullrey Memorial Chapel and returned them on Sunday.
During the ensuing years, board members found ways to pay the monthly mortgague payment by staging shows and fund raising.
Curt Schroeder wrote and directed shows which garnered him ELLY Awards. Pat Hill directed children’s shows at the Prune Festival and staged Tom Sawyer, The Wizard of Oz, Charlie’s Aunt, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Jamie Ferreira and Phil Perry directed Li’l Abner. Jamie Ferreira staged Welcome to Carnie, Arsenic and Old Lace, and A Raisen in the Sun. Janice Hoberg directed Nunsense and Steel Magnolias. Phil Perry directed Annie. Karyn Donahue directed The Glass Menagerie, Seascape and On Golden Pond. Board members brought in toilet paper and paper towels as “dues” rather than drain meger profits which were used to launch more plays.
Volunteers were and still are the backbone of our community theater. Those early volunteers included our spouses, our friends, our neighbors, and Rotarians who helped referbish donated theater seats and build risers upon which the seats were installed. Our “light booth” was the transom over the front door.
Richard Betournay designed, painted and installed our sign. We continued to put on plays, add more actors, build our volunteer base and pull in more directors. Ric Young directed Don’t Drink the Water and Driving Miss Daisy. Cecilia Chafin directed Same Time Next Year. Neil Thorson directed Scrooge. Nora LeBarton directed Blithe Spirit. Foster McManus directed The Miracle Worker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Little Women, Twelfth Night, and How to Suceed in Business. Pierrette Jensen directed The Sound of Music and Snoopy. Staci Johnson directed Lend Me a Tenor. These are just a few of the plays we produced in those fledgling years and only a few of the volunteer directors who worked to make The Acting Company grow. Behind every show, behind every director, was an army of volunteers who built and painted sets, made costumes, set lights, created sound bites, handled publicity, created posters and programs, sold advertisements, did fund raising, created characters and learned lines.
Within seven years the mortgage was paid off so we made the obvious decision to go $300,000 in debt. We built a serviceable green room, laid down a proper stage, installed a sound and light booth, purchased and installed stadium seating, moved and upgraded the electrical system and much more. The contractor discovered previously undetected dry rot and absorbed $10,000 more in renovation costs. More recently, $12,000 was put into a new lobby and $10,000 into the green room. There are many stories to be told about the history of TAC, memories that past and current board members would be happy to share with you. Past board members are too numerous to mention here, but past presidents include Curt Schroeder, Pat Hill, Ric Young, Shirley Watson, Foster Campbell and Bob Harlan.
2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of TAC’s incorporation, and we have a lot to celebrate. Magic Theater, the children’s arm of the company and long a stepchild to our main stage shows, acquired a program director and expanded the number a shows each year to seven. Summer acting workshops and Saturday classes are great successes, often with long waiting lists. Future plans for TAC include upgrades in sound, lights, stage flooring and ticket management. Plans are also in the works for continued growth in Magic Theater.