Dedicated thespians, patrons keep theater vibrant

Odyssey: Midsummer Night's Dream rehearsal

What motivates groups of people to spend their free time memorizing lines and building sets and rehearsing for hours—for no pay?
“It’s for the love of theater,” said Scott Lynch, a board member, producer and vice president of publicity for the South Valley Civic Theater.
That love is shared by others at the Limelight Actors Theater and the newly restructured Odyssey Theater Company. Maybe it’s something in the air, water or the wine, but the pulse of these dedicated thespians beats steady as local productions continue to attract larger crowds each season. The grand dame of local theater, South Valley Civic Theater started in 1969 as the Gilroy Community Theater. Lynch credits a unique formula as the key to the theater’s success.
“We produce five shows—one for children, one for teens and
one family show and then two adult shows—so we attract all ages,” Lynch said.
The other driving force, according to Lynch, is the active and demanding theater board that pushes the envelope for more progressive, challenging plays … such as the 2014 production of “Proof,” which is about mental illness. Besides his publicity work, Lynch is also producing the provocative Mel Brook’s comedy musical, “The Producers” running through Aug 8. The show fits into the theater’s philosophy of service.
“We are a service to the community because our shows appeal
to very different crowds, and South Valley continues to gain a reputation based on the quality of our shows,” Lynch said.
Theater with a twist is a great way to describe the Limelight Actors Theater in Gilroy, the brainchild of Kevin Heath, owner, founder and artistic director. He opened the theater in 2011 in collaboration with the Gilroy Arts Alliance. According to Heath, the “twist” is that the theater produces a variety of high quality shows for patrons and challenging roles for actors.Housed at the Gilroy Center for the Arts, Limelight is a small cabaret-style theater where patrons are welcome to bring their own dinner and wine. In fact, Limelight was the first theater south of San Jose to offer wine to patrons, Heath said. But besides the vino, Limelight filled a niche that wasn’t represented in the area.
“We do multiple genres including comedy, drama and dramedy, cabaret musicals and more,” Heath said. “Even the comedies attract crowds looking for something a little deeper and meatier.”
Along with the variety of shows, Heath said an abundance of talented performers play a huge part in keeping the theater scene vibrant.
“There is so much talent that fits perfectly with each type of theater calling the area home,” he said. “Some of us draw talent from San Jose and the coast, based on our reputation and commitment to doing good theater.”
Odyssey Theatre Company is currently readying its first “Shakespeare Under the Stars” production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the amphitheater at Christopher High School
The production is a 20-year dream come true for Jim McCann, Odyssey’s board chairman, and Dr. Kate Booth, artistic director.
“This is the kind of show we want
to present to the local communities, so they don’t have to travel elsewhere,” McCann said.
The classic tale of love, mischief and magic features a cast of about 15, including actors from Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Hollister and Carmel. To McCann’s knowledge, the amphitheater has never been used for a theatrical production.
“It has great acoustics, sightlines and can seat about 300-people,” he said.
Newly restructured and incorporated as a nonprofit regional theater in 2014, Odyssey has an almost 15-year history of providing quality theatrical productions in Gilroy. It began in 1996 with its first outdoor production of “Romeo and Juliet” in Christmas Hill Park.
McCann said the company will focus on Shakespeare and the classics in summer productions with several smaller productions throughout the year. Future plans call for an annual new play festival and a show performed in a local winery. But those plans will take money and support. “We’ve taken the steps necessary to get the Shakespeare project going, but we could really use the help and support of others in the community who would like to get in on the ground floor of this adventure,” McCann said.
Other community theater groups in the area include Pintello Comedy Theater, which presents shows at the Grange Hall in Gilroy, and STAR Arts Education, which hosts a summer theater camp for kids.
After performing on Broadway and traveling the world, theater columnist Camille Bounds knows good theater when she sees it. She credits theater arts lovers for delivering the shows in the South Valley.
“Dedicated people who love the theater will produce, direct and act in these local productions mostly as volunteers,” Bounds said. “For the most part, they are entertaining and enjoyable and you can often get super productions.”
Check out these current and upcoming Gilroy and Morgan Hill theater productions. Call theaters or go
to their websites for showtimes and ticket information.
‘Boeing Boeing’ through July 18
‘Corner Pocket’ An evening of cabaret music , One night only—Aug. 15
Gilroy Center for the Arts
7341 Monterey St., Gilroy
(408) 472-3292
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
Aug. 7-8 & 14-15
Christopher High School
850 Day Road, Gilroy
(408) 682-0755
‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ Aug. 21–Sept. 19
8191 Swanston Ln. Gilroy
(408) 337-1599
‘The Producers’ through Aug. 8
Morgan Hill Community Playhouse
17090 Monterey Rd., Morgan Hill
(800) 838-3006,


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