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Lindsay Community Theater: The Biggest Little Theater in Central California

IN THE March 28 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andLorie Lewis Ham,
andTheatre
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by Lorie Lewis Ham

Community theatre is a very important part of any community and the Valley has been blessed with a multitude of community theatre companies. A few weeks ago we sat down with Jim Kleigl, who is the current theater manager of the Lindsay Community Theater, to learn more about theirs. While their current shows have been canceled or postponed like all others in this time of crisis, they eagerly await being able to perform again. If you would like to help support local theatre during this difficult time, consider purchasing a gift certificate that can be used when theatre is able to return.

KRL: When did Lindsay Community Theater first start?

Jim: The theater was bought in 1983. It was a former movie theater, which was changed into a playhouse.

KRL: Who started it and why?

Jim: It was started by a group of theater people in Lindsay led by Peggy Sanders and Hal Munter who saw an opportunity to buy the theater, which had closed down several years before. It would now be the home of a group called The Town Players, which was performing in various venues like school cafeterias for lack of a permanent home. The Town Players was formed in the mid-seventies.

Lindsay Community Theater show

KRL: How did you get involved with the company and why?

Jim: I was involved in the Town Players as well as the Lindsay High Drama Club where I taught English and Drama.

KRL: Why do you feel theatre is important to the community?

Jim: Cultural arts and performing arts bring a vitality to any community. I believe the Lindsay Community Theater keeps theater arts alive in our community and in central California. It is an art form, much as music and painting and sculpture. The arts are important for the health of the soul, like good nutrition is good for the body.

KRL: What do you feel your company has to offer that may be unique or different from other local theatres?

Jim: We are not much different from other theater companies in the area, such as the Barn Theater in Porterville, the Encore Theater in Tulare, or the Ice House Theater in Visalia. We give local actors a place to practice their art and bring entertainment to our citizens. We all have that goal. We are a very busy theater, performing 7 plays each season, as well as presenting 5 or 6 concerts.

Lindsay Community Theater rehearsal

KRL: Please share with us about why you started your children’s theatre.

Jim: Our children’s theater was started in response to the state of California cutting funding for summer school theater in the schools. Children are artists too, and children need an outlet for their acting and singing talent just like adults do. It also provides a great training ground for future adult actors in our community.

Lindsay Community Theater show

KRL: Do you hold open auditions for each show?

Jim: I have always believed in open auditions for all shows. Some are restricted by age or sex, depending on the cast. Children’s theater is exclusively for kids in grade school. High school is for high school students generally. Many times while I was directing shows for Lindsay High School, I opened auditions for students from any school to apply. I also often included adults in the cast where appropriate. In High School Musical, there are several adults who played the parts of teachers at the school. In Cats, there were students from 6 different high schools, teachers form three communities, a real estate agent from Visalia, and a retired teacher from Exeter. The age range for Cats was 13 to 72.

Lindsay Community Theater production of “Cats”

KRL: Is everyone volunteer?

Jim: The Lindsay Community Theater is 100% volunteer. There is no paid staff.

KRL: How do you pick your shows?

Jim: There is no set method for picking shows. Sometimes people propose a play or musical that they would like to see. Other times a small committee is formed to search for plays and musicals to present. The final approval of the season of shows is in the hands of the board of directs, of which there are usually about 15.

KRL: Do you have shows all year long?

Jim: We do not present show in the theater in the summer because of the prohibitive cost of cooling our large theater. As a result, we are dark from June to late September or October. We present a play in the summer, Shakespeare in the Plaza, outdoors on the Sweet Brier Plaza stage at the end of August.

KRL: What type of shows have you done, and are you doing in the future?

Jim: We usually do two or three musicals every year, a Shakespeare play, and several stage plays, usually comedies. We also do The Nutcracker with a cast of grade-school students as a way of introducing dance into our repertoire.

Lindsay Community Theater show

KRL: What is your attendance generally like?

Jim: Our attendance in the early days was a bit higher than today. At first it was a novelty in the community, and then it became more routine. Some shows attract more of an audience than others. We try to pick plays that we think people will want to see. We, of course, always would want to have a bigger audience, and because we have such a large theater, which seats 360, even an audience of 150 seems sparse.

KRL: Where are you located? Have you always been at that location?

Jim: The Lindsay Community Theater is located at 190 N Elmwood, in the heart of downtown Lindsay. We have been at that location continuously since its purchase in 1983.

KRL: What are you ticket prices?

Jim: Our tickets for most productions are $9.99 for adults and $5 for students. For our big musicals, the cost is $14.99 for Adults and $9.99 for students.

KRL: Where can people find more information about your shows?

Jim: Our website contains all the information about upcoming shows: lindsaycommunitytheater.com.

Please consider donating to your local community theatre, or purchasing a gift certificate, during this difficult time.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors–many of whom were mentioned in this article. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean. A new episode went up this week!

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.

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