Santa Cruz County theater companies are making a strong comeback this fall with a lineup that ranges from “The Thin Place,” a chilling play about life after death at the Actors’ Theatre, to Tom Stoppard’s “Rough Crossing,” which opens Jewel Theatre Co.’s farewell season.
After all the summer excitement with Santa Cruz Shakespeare and Cabrillo Stage, live theater is back, in a big way. From performances to unique workshops to other opportunities for audiences to engage, local theater companies are coming in heavy for the fall season.
First up, Actors’ Theatre in Santa Cruz, which endured a near-death experience in 2022, is back with its first play of the season. Opening Friday will be Lucas Hnath’s “The Thin Place,” a chilling story ideal for the spooky season of Halloween.
The play centers on a young woman (Jennifer Galvin) trying to communicate with her dead grandmother, and the psychic (Tara McMillin) trying to connect the two. It’s a story that toys with ideas about life after death and the realms beyond the material world. And, in a canny marketing move, Actors’ Theatre is opening the play on Friday the 13th and closing it on Halloween.
Actors’ Theatre, of course, gives us the delightful 10-minute play festival known as “8 Tens @ 8” every January. But “The Thin Place” is the first non-“8 Tens” production that the theater company has staged since the pandemic. The company will bring back “8 Tens” in January, and in April, it will present “White Sky, Falling Dragon,” written by Watsonville playwright Spike Wong, from a story inspired by his World War II veteran father.
More immediately, however, Actors’ Theatre will offer an eight-week workshop on the art of radio acting, or “audio theater,” conducted by longtime theater arts professor Bill Peters. The course, which begins Monday, is designed for those interested in acting or theater who might be looking for some insights in voice acting.
Meanwhile, across town, Jewel Theater Co. opens what will be its farewell season next week with Tom Stoppard’s “Rough Crossing,” a spirited comedy about two playwrights trying to keep romantic entanglements from derailing their latest musical. The production will feature former Shakespeare Santa Cruz artistic director Danny Scheie. It opens Wednesday, Oct. 18.
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Jewel follows up its opening Stoppard production with Jeffrey Scharf’s screwball comedy “Who’s Got Me?” in December. Then, in 2024, Jewel offers up the redoubtable family drama “The Lion in Winter” (opening Feb. 7), and local playwright Kate Hawley’s latest, “Under Ben Bulben” (March 27), before culminating in Jewel’s final show, a revival of a 2017 hit, the winning musical “Always … Patsy Cline.”
And, you might be wondering, what is Santa Cruz Shakespeare up to? Yes, SCS announced in August that it is moving beyond the summer to be more of a year-round company with five new productions in 2024. That new fall production and the holiday play are still, unfortunately, a year away.
But SCS is staying busy with its new Book Club, an online opportunity for audiences to engage in what amounts to a table read, with discussions on the text and the characters between the company’s artistic director, Charles Pasternak, and the participants who get to play roles in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
Of course, the folks at Mountain Community Theater have already gotten the jump on everyone. MCT’s latest production, “Something Rotten,” has been rolling since mid-September, and the rowdy musical farce closes with three performances this weekend at Park Hall in Ben Lomond.
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