by Rebecca Potts
Nestled just south of Yosemite National Park in a little town called Oakhurst, sits a hidden gem full of imagination and talent. The Golden Chain Theatre was born in 1967 when a small group of residents decided they needed an attraction to encourage the tourists traveling to Yosemite to stop in their town. Their first production, a dramatic play entitled The Drunkard, debuted on July 4, 1968 in the Oakhurst Community Center.
The Valley fell in love with GCT, and the theatre became so popular that they quickly outgrew their space. Five years later, a few of the theatre’s founding members purchased the Snowline Bowling Alley using their own houses as collateral, a move that illustrated the dedication and connection the theatre had brought to the community in just a few short years. The bowling alley was converted into a rustic auditorium, and the first show debuted two years later.
Fifty-two years later, the Golden Chain Theatre continues to thrive, bringing a variety of plays and musicals to the stage and exciting audiences of all ages. The Artistic Director at GCT, Jennifer Janine, is in charge of deciding which shows to bring to the stage.
“I choose the shows based on the feedback from our patrons, and what I think we can produce well with our resources,” Janine explains. In recent years, they have produced shows such as The Music Man, Steel Magnolias, Annie, The Great Gatsby, Little Women, and many more popular stories. You can try out your detective skills at one of their murder mysteries, enjoy a melodrama, catch one of their traveling shows, or participate in one of their weekend special events.
Janine works closely with the Musical Director of GCT, James Mierkey, and the pair have even written their own full-scale musicals that have been brought to life on GCT’s stage with actors of all ages. They’ve worked together on countless productions and one in particular has stood out to both of them in their time at GCT. “Our favorite show to work on together was Fiddler on the Roof,” they shared. “A beautiful story, amazing music, historical significance, and themes of faith and tradition touch so many different people. Getting to work with a cast of over seventy-five, ages 6-80 was an amazing experience.” Janine and Mierkey’s passion for artistic expression has reverberated throughout the community of Oakhurst.
“We love the opportunity that community theatre gives people to try something new and discover talents they didn’t even know they had,” Janine says. “GCT gives our youth a positive focus where they can learn valuable social skills and give people a real feeling of community.”
To add to the impressive entertainment that GCT offers, it’s not just a theatre, it’s also a school. The GCT School of Performing Arts offers a variety of arts education to children and adults across the Valley. Private voice and piano lessons are available as well as an Art and Expressionism in Theatre class that is offered every Thursday.
If you’re looking for something more intensive, check into the GCT Junior Players or one of the Summer Workshops. As a Junior Player, students learn a variety of entertainment skills including character research, scene study, singing exercises, and much more. Summer Workshop registration begins in March and the workshop commences July 1. Kids in first thru seventh grades will perform Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Kids while teens in seventh to twelfth grades will prepare to showcase Disney’s Aladdin Jr. Workshop classes are Monday—Friday, fours hours per day.
GCT holds open auditions for upcoming shows at their theatre in Oakhurst. In a few short months, auditions for Savannah Sipping Society and Peter Pan will be held on June 1 and 2. In the meantime, mark your calendars and don’t miss Oliver, running from 4/26 to 5/19, and Moos Over Mesa debuting 6/28 and running until 7/14. The rest of the season includes the hilarious and heartwarming Savannah Sipping Society (8/23–9/8), the magical story of Peter Pan (10/4–10/27), and the holiday classic, A Christmas Story (11/22–12/22).
If you love theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 13 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.