by Nancy Holley
The Visalia Players history with the Ice House Theatre “officially” began in October, 1976, with the inaugural performance of Gypsy staring Betty Crawford, a well-known local actor/vocalist.
During the previous year, the Players’ organization with the help of the Visalia City Council, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, Self-Help Enterprises, Proteus, and many other civic organizations and individuals, converted the historic Visalia Ice House into a venue for live theatre performances.
Through the generous auspices of the City of Visalia, the Visalia Players were able to lease the Ice House Theatre from the city from that day forward.
For the next forty-three years, the Players presented musicals and dramas for the entertainment of the community. Then came COVID-19 and, for the first time in the sixty-three years of their existence, the Visalia Players went dark.
At roughly the same time, the City of Visalia determined it would be in the City’s best interest to divest itself of the property where the Ice House Theatre and the Creative Center are located. The Visalia Players and the Creative Center would be given the opportunity to buy the property, but there were numerous “t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted” first. With the advent of COVID-19, everything was put on hold.
After fifteen months, the Players reopened with an outdoor musical revue, Bright Lights of Broadway, which was welcomed and set the stage for planning productions for an abbreviated 2021-2022 season. The issue of purchasing the Ice House Theatre from the City again became a major concern for the Visalia Players, an all-volunteer organization with no regular local, state, or federal funding.
A Night in Vegas, a fundraiser, kicks off the Players season on August 7. This gala event (dust off those party clothes that have been languishing in your closet) begins at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvre in the Lobby of the Ice House. At 7:30 p.m. an evening of Frank Sinatra hits staring Jamie Hitchcock will kick off with an introduction by Visalia Players President Karl Schoettler.
Hitchcock’s debut at the Ice House was in the musical My Way, a revue of Frank Sinatra hits directed by Gary Benjamin and Sylvia Garoian in 2011. Since that time Hitchcock has entertained audiences throughout the valley. Hitchcock is donating his time and talent to help the Visalia Players in their fundraising efforts. When asked about his generosity, he humbly commented, “Since COVID-19 hit entertainers hard, I wanted to get that tux back on and entertain. Debra Hansen asked so I said Yes!”
Tickets are $50 with eight VIP tickets available at $80. Those with VIP tickets will be seated at tables for two on the wings of the stage, with personal servers, a bottle of champagne, and surprises to be revealed at the evening unfolds. The organizers of the fund raiser have specified that the monies received will “go toward the building purchase fund, making the theatre ADA compliant, and updating the theater.”
A Night in Vegas
A Visalia Players Fundraiser at the Ice House Theatre
August 7, 2021
Given the continued uncertainty of the COVID virus and its variants, the Players will not be selling season tickets, but are planning to provide the following season:
Copper Creek (a cabaret) – Sept. 24-26
Hot Flashes, The Musical – Oct 29-31, Nov 5-7, 12-14, and 19-21
A Christmas Story – Dec 3-5, 10-12, and 17-19
Legally Blonde – Mar 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27; Apr 1-3 and 8-10
In addition, there will be a second fundraiser on January 15, 2022, Murder at the Ice House Theatre, an interactive participative “murder mystery” set in the 1920s.
A more detailed description of the entire season is available at www.visaliaplayers.org. Reservations for A Night in Vegas and the rest of the season can be made on the website or by calling (559) 734-3900. Join us and support your community theatre.
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If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can check the podcast out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, and also on podbean.