by Sarah A. Peterson
In the thirty-seven years since its inception, Tulare’s Encore Theatre Company has evolved from a summer school program replacement, to the Tulare mainstay that it is today. After funding was cut for a Summer School Theater Program in 1978, teachers and parents who’d been involved in that program decided it was high time for Tulare to establish a permanent outlet for the dramatic arts. Thus the Encore Theatre Company was born.
Following the company’s first production, Bye Bye Birdie, debuted in 1979, Encore’s founders filed for non-profit status, and acquired a permanent residence in 1983. Since then, the organization has expanded to encompass five productions a year, as well as two children’s programs, Stages and Encore Kids and it is all the work of volunteers.
“We are an all-volunteer organization,” says Encore Theatre board member, Denyse Weaver. “There is no org chart or designated jobs. We have a board with officers, but no ‘Artistic Director’ or ‘Production Manager’ type positions.”
Weaver has occupied a variety of roles within the non-profit, sometimes simultaneously. “I am a board member,” she says, “but I have also been a director, actor, stage manager, lighting designer and general all-around problem solver. My role in a production will depend on what is needed at the time. I have done every job there is to do in our theater, from directing to cleaning bathrooms.”
When it comes to directing, every show is equally unique. “Each director assembles the crew they need for their show,” Weaver says, “and creates the production based on their own individual vision and capabilities.” Weaver herself has been in the director’s chair a number of times. “I take a turn directing every couple of years,” she says. “My most recent was last month with Beyond Karaoke. Prior to that, Every Christmas Story Ever Told was my personal favorite. Blackpool and Parish was probably the most challenging and Lafferty’s Wake, my first, was just a lot of fun.”
As for the theater’s most popular shows, “We are best known for quirky, fourth wall-breaking musicals and classic large productions,” Weaver says. “Our Beauty and the Beast drew very satisfying accolades, and both Drowsy Chaperone and Clue, the Musical had waiting lists of people hoping to get in.”
Weaver is looking forward to Encore’s latest offering, currently in rehearsal mode. “Big Fish is a new musical based on the Tim Burton movie,” she says, “and opens in July. It’s another of those goofy kind of musicals we’re good at doing, and in August, we’ll be holding auditions for our two kids’ programs (Stages and Encore Kids), as well as our next show Squabbles.”
When it comes to the most rewarding aspect of Weaver’s work with Encore, it’s all about the process. “Seeing a production go from just words on a page to a living, breathing entity–that’s the best part.”
For more information on the Encore Theatre Company, please visit: www.TulareEncoreTheatre.org.
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