Heroes of Our State Parks #1 – Transcendence Theatre

by Sarah Amador-Rusnak

Broadway Under the Stars contributed $27,000 to help keep Jack London State Park open for business. photo bt Ryan Daffurn
Broadway Under the Stars contributed $27,000 to help keep Jack London State Park open for business.
photo by Ryan Daffurn

There is a new hero in the area, a hero whose mission is to save Jack London State Park, strengthen our sense of community and bring Broadway to Wine Country.

Who is this hero? It is Transcendence Theatre Company, a professional company made up of top Broadway and Hollywood talent. And in just one year, they have accomplished their mission.

Last year, Jack London State Park was slated to close due to lack of funds. The same week the officials made the announcement, the theater company discovered the winery ruins in the park and decided it would be the perfect venue for their open air concerts, Broadway Under the Stars. It was serendipitous.

In 2012, more than 7,500 people attended their inaugural season. With the theater company’s generous donation of $27,000 from ticket sales, the park was saved.

Not only has the company helped save the history of our community, but it has also formed a partnership with the park, bringing more people to the park to enjoy it. With more visitors, revenue increases, as do shared experiences of community.

The Transcendence Theatre Company transcends the usual limits of performance. During the summer, they offer four themed concerts amidst the ruins of Jack London State Park, under the stars, complete with winery views. In 2012, they were awarded Broadway World San Francisco Award for Best Special Theater Event.

This year the season runs from June 28 -August 31, and will include four separate themed concerts (Fly Me To The Moon, Fantastical Family Night, Dancing Through Life Gala Celebration Concert), totaling 14 nights of performances.

Looking for a unique night? Wish to expand your experience of wine country? A nature enthusiast? Or wish to donate to the park? At the Broadway Under the Stars concert, two events are offered, a pre-show and chance to picnic, as well as the opportunity to sample wines from local Sonoma county wineries, as well as food from vendors. After that, the variety show begins.

When you attend one of these concerts, expect the extraordinary. You might just witness a performer singing “Memory” from Cats, hitting a high note at the same time a meteor shower cascades through the sky. You might listen to a performer sing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from atop a horse on the stage or to a song from Young Frankenstein sung from under a full moon.

photo by Ryan Daffurn

“It’s the perfect combination of history, art, nature and community. It’s bringing everyone together in an enjoyable space,” Amy Miller, Artistic Director of Transcendence Theatre Company, said. Miller has had a career performing on Broadway and in television and film.

Last year songs were performed from 42nd Street to Mama Mia and Chicago, Young Frankenstein and Wicked.

The Theatre Company’s roots lie in Pato Banton, a town in Mexico in which the company first formed to bring art to the community, and found ways to strengthen the community. True to their mission, the Transcendence Theatre Company continues to give back. Through Skits Under the Stars, held on summer nights at the Benzinger Winery, locals have a chance to perform at the open mike with Broadway talent.

At the kid’s camp, kids ages 8-18 get to perform under the stars with Broadway actors, singing numbers from shows such as Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, and Hairspray. It culminates in a Fantastical Family Night. The kids also sing at the pre-show picnic.

“We want to use our art to make a difference in people’s lives,” Miller said. “We are so happy this is coming true.”

Transcendence Theatre Company’s service to our community does not stop there. They also unite non-profits together, such as La Luz and the Boys and Girls Club. Last year, the Broadway actors taught children a dance routine, improvisation, writing, acting, singing and dancing.

Jack London was a big dreamer and adventurer. So are members of the Transcendence Theatre Company. “Transcendence is about empowering people to go after their dreams. To give back to their community,” Miller said.

“It’s a wonderful match,” Miller added. “We’re so excited our Big Dream is coming true.”

Welcome, Transcendence Dance Company, to our community! And thank you.

For more information, visit www.transcendencetheatre.org or call (877) 424-1414.