by Sarah Amador
The night was dark, and the theater was full of the smell of gunfire. There were hold-ups and shoot-outs; spilled blood, breadlines and desperate times; an outlaw couple crooning and canoodling just about everywhere (in the car, in the bathtub, in a meadow); and a musical score combining rockabilly, blues and gospel music.
No, I wasn’t back in West Texas in the 1930s; I was with my son at 6th Street Playhouse watching the musical Bonnie & Clyde. This production reveals the playhouse’s mission to works both new and old, as this musical is practically brand new, premiering in La Jolla, California, in 2009 and going on to Broadway for a short time. Bonnie & Clyde also continues the season’s “Coming Home” theme, a celebration of stories uniquely American.
I’ve been to 6th Street many times, and as always, the actors sang, danced and acted their hearts out this night too. There’s a reason that 6th Street Playhouse was voted “Best Local Live Theatre Company” of 2014 by the Press Democrat readership, “Best Theatre Troupe” of 2012, 2013, and 2014 by the North Bay Bohemian, and “Theatre of the Year” of 2011 and 2012 by broadwayworld.com San Franciscan voters. If you go, be prepared to be entertained.
Before curtain rose on the second act, I looked around and thought about the other times I had sat there. Tonight my son was next to me, but the last time we were here together, he was still in high school and we were watching hilarious scenes like “That Face” and “Along Came Bialy” from The Producers. Another time it was my mother and husband sitting next to me, about to watch my son in 6th Street’s youth ensemble production of The Producers. I remember my son playing the insulting boss Mr. Marks, stamping about the accounting firm as his employees sang sadly at their gloomy desks. During a performance of Singing in the Rain, I had sat in this theater with my husband and watched rain—real water—fall on the actors. I have this memory of my son tap dancing in the rain in perfect time with the rest of the umbrella-clad cast on stage—it was amazing!
My son’s passion for acting was strengthened and guided through two summer productions with 6th Street’s School of Drama. One of the great things about the Playhouse’s School of Drama is that the young actors use the same sets and theater as the professional production. This makes the performances really authentic for the young actors. The School of Drama is part of the playhouse’s mission to offer a nurturing and challenging atmosphere where actors (young and old) have an opportunity to learn, grow, and express themselves through the craft of theatre.
This last weekend, 6th Street Playhouse celebrated their ten year anniversary with a Back to the Future one-night performance that highlighted past shows and gave glimpses to upcoming ones. 6th Street Playhouse was formed in 2004 from a partnership of Sonoma County’s oldest theater group (the Santa Rosa Players) and Actors Theatre. Together these actors renovated the 107-year-old Del Monte cannery into the current playhouse. They did an incredible job, earning the Sonoma County Historical Society Award for Preservation of a Historical Building for the renovation. In 2005, the playhouse opened with the production of Mame.
6th Street has also won the City of Santa Rosa Award for Cultural Enrichment. Additionally, our local writers are supported through the Playhouse’s annual Redwood Writers play contest and Wine Country Play Festival. Winning playwrights receive full production of their plays and two tickets to the New Voices on the Vine: A Wine Country Play Festival.
However, this award-winning theater is in need of our patronage. This season, they have had to cancel four productions in the Studio Theatre due to lack of funds.
The playhouse’s 2014-2015 season continues with The Graduate, Crazy for You (A Gershwin Musical), New Voices on the Vine, and Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story. The Spring Youth Production of Shrek the Musical JR will perform on April 17 and 18th, and in August, our young actors will perform the Wizard of Oz.
So, fellow Sonoma County enthusiasts, already tired of wine tasting, gourmet eating, kayaking, and hiking? Want a fun night out with family or that special someone? Wish to make memories to last a lifetime? Support the actors of our community, be part of the GO LOCAL Sonoma County effort, and go see a play!
For tickets or more information, visit http://www.6thstreetplayhouse.com/home/ or contact the playhouse at (707) 523-4185. 6th Street Playhouse is located northwest of Railroad Square at 52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa.