Visalia Players at the Ice House Theater
Take the StageMay 2015
By Fache Desrochers
Photos: Jacki Potorke
As a cultural mainstay, few things have stood the test of time quite like theater. When one looks at all the entertainment options available today, it feels tempting to categorize a live stage performance as archaic. But there is something about treading the boards, or sitting in that darkened audience: Something alive and intoxicating and utterly irreplaceable. Perhaps that’s why the Visalia Players and their home at the historic Ice House Theater have been such a proud local fixture for so long.
June will see the Players’ completion of their 57th season of providing live entertainment to the community. The Visalia Players’ legacy boasts more than 300 shows that have been produced, directed, acted in and supported by generations of South Valley culture vultures who found their way to the Ice House Theater’s audience, audition line and board of dedicated members. “A show is so much more than the actors on the stage,” says President William Martin. “It’s truly a community effort that makes the Ice House Theater possible.”
“The board is all volunteers who are passionate about theater in some way, and not necessarily about acting,” says longtime board member Leeni Mitchell.
The Visalia Players are wrapping up their 2014-2015 season in June with a stage adaptation of the 1960s film triumph The Graduate. It’s a fitting end to a fascinating season, which featured an ambitious lineup with something for every theatergoer. From the rollicking musical Bonnie & Clyde, to the quirky Hitchcock adaptation The 39 Steps, to the contemplative drama The Trip to Bountiful, the Visalia Players are in possession of some serious range. But that has always been a priority. “One of the things we are most proud of here is the diversity of our shows,” says Martin. “We’ll have musicals and lighter stuff in the year’s lineup, but we also like to do edgier performances as well; satirical farces and dark comedies and plays that address certain issues.”
When it comes to their seasonal lineup, the Visalia Players stress not only diversity, but innovative presentation. In addition to staging productions in the main theater, the Players have also branched out into what they call “lobby shows.” “Once a year, we usually do a show here in the lobby,” says Mitchell. “This helps us do seven shows instead of six, because your main stage is free, so you can present two productions at the same time.”
For the lobby shows, the Players choose smaller, more esoteric productions that are ideal for smaller audiences. “It’s a lovely, intimate environment, which is nice, because often these lobby shows are performances that you might not get a very big audience for,” says Martin. “But that’s perfect, because these are usually types of shows where you want to be close. You want to see the expressions in the eyes…the movement of the hands… you can see the actors blink and blush…you’re not going to miss anything.”
In fact, this smaller show setting has been so well received by audiences that the Players have decided to take this creative use of space as far as it can go. “We’re doing cabarets in the lobby now,” Mitchell says. “It’s a limited engagement; we only stage them for a three-performance weekend. But they’re so much fun.”
After the curtain falls on The Graduate, the Players take a brief summer hiatus, and return fresh in August to start the 2015-2016 season with the inaugural show Broads of Broadway, directed by Mitchell herself. “I’m very excited about that show because we are putting every aspect of it together ourselves,” she says. “It’s an original musical based on the golden age of Broadway.” Looking ahead, the Players’ upcoming season includes the wry comedy Over the River & Thru the Woods, the haunting musical Dogfight, and cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (including a midnight Halloween showing of course) – to name just a few.
If you know that the theater is in your blood, (or if you’ve always wanted to know), you’re in luck; there are a myriad of ways to get involved with the Visalia Players. Auditions are always open call, but for those who don’t crave the limelight, the Players’ volunteer program is the perfect way to break into lighting, set design, directing or any other element of the theater. The Players’ membership program is also an excellent place to get one’s feet wet. “There’s so many ways to get involved,” says Martin. “And it takes a lot of different kinds of talent. Theater needs everybody.”
Visalia Players at the Ice House Theater
410 E. Race Ave., Visalia • Find them on Facebook
(559) 734-3900 • www.visaliaplayers.org
Visalia Players 2015/2016 SEASON
May 13-29—NEXT FALL “Lobby Show”—Dramedy
June 10-26 —VANYA, SONIA, MASHA & SPIKE—Comedy
June 12-28—The Graduate—Drama
August 14-30 —BROADS OF BROADWAY—Musical
October 16–November 1—ROCKY HORROR SHOW—Musical
April 1-17—OUTGOING TIDE—Drama