by Lorie Lewis Ham
The new Selma Arts Center opens Saturday, September 14 with a production by the Raisin’ Cain Players of The Sound of Music. There is a gala grand opening showing on September 14 that will help to fund additional improvements for the Arts Center.
“This production will run for three weekends,” said Selma Mayor Ken Grey. “Then we have a monthly series of programs for Latino Music programs featuring national artists who are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.” Also coming up is a youth production of Beauty and the Beast.
“We are scheduling to bring to Selma, and for that matter the southern part of Fresno County, arts in all the various forms,” continued Mayor Grey. “This will include art work exhibitions, sculpture, music, dance, performances, book authors, lecture series, and other programming.”
The Selma Arts Center is a project that began in thought a number of years back, according to Grey. A previous City Council made a decision to purchase an existing building in the heart of Selma’s historical downtown district with this in mind. That building suffered a roof collapse, and as a result of the insurance coverage, the City was able to consider the process of starting construction on a new arts center.
“The City looked at the funding that has been spent on the sports programs and felt it was time to invest in our youth, as well as all age groups, who could benefit from the opportunity to express themselves through art,” stated Grey. “We found that quite a number of Selma citizens had graduated from Selma and actually have become employed in the arts so this also represented an investment into the development of employment for our people. In addition, the revitalization of the historical business district would help to generate tax basis for the community.”
The new Arts Center has a seating capacity of 264 and the stage is a full production stage with state of the art lighting and sound systems. It is a very “green” building with high energy efficiency built in. Much of the stage lighting is LED. There is an art gallery, production offices, concession stand, and a full basement with storage for the Art Center’s needs.
The ceremonial opening of the Selma Arts Center took place with a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception on August 21 with approximately 300 in attendance. Although the Center has been used by The Sound of Music cast for rehearsals since August 26, its first staging will take place at the Gala Opening Night benefit performance when The Sound of Music debuts.
The Raisin’ Cain Players were established in 1985, according to Randy McFarland, Producer, The Sound of Music and Vice Chair, Selma Arts Council. In March 1986, they established the Unger Opera House in a wooden former school music building at Selma’s Pioneer Village. They continued performing in the Unger Opera House until it was closed, due to deterioration, in August 1996. That same year, the City of Selma acquired a former modernistic church next to Selma’s hospital, and the Selma Cultural Arts Center and C.F. Unger Hall were developed. The center opened in March 1997. The facility was closed 15 years later after being acquired by Adventist Health. The group’s final performance in that building was a production of Annie in November of 2010.
After that, The Raisin’ Cain Players remained inactive until now, with their production of The Sound Of Music being the perfect way to celebrate the opening of the new Arts Center.
As to how the Raisin’ Cain Players feel about performing in the new building, Randy stated that they are very excited! “The cast and company understand the honor that has been bestowed upon the Raisin’ Cain Players to be the first to perform in the Selma Arts Center, and they appreciate that this is likely the finest community Arts facility to have ever been built and developed for the purpose in rural Fresno County.”
“A terrific feature [of the building] is a full basement with fairly high ceiling,” continued Randy. The basement will serve as dressing rooms and make-up area as well as a much-needed storage area for costumes, props and equipment. The basement can also be used as a rehearsal hall, and there are two more upstairs rehearsal rooms, which would allow for two shows to be in production at the same time.
Having never before performed The Sound of Music, Randy felt it was the perfect inaugural show for the Raisin’ Cain Players to do in the new arts center. The cast includes members from Selma, Kingsburg, Fowler, Tulare, Clovis and Fresno. Their Maria – Hanna Nielsen York – grew up in Kingsburg and made her debut in acting with the Raisin’ Cain Players when she was a child. She also played Maria last year for the Good Company Players in their production of The Sound of Music.
Tickets for all performances are available online at TicketTomato.com or in person at the Arts Center, 1935 High Street in downtown Selma. You can also call (559) 891-2238. All seats are reserved. All tickets for the September 14 Gala Opening Night benefit performance are priced at $75. The 8 p.m. curtain will be preceded at 7 p.m. by a reception. Beverages and dessert will be served in the Arts Center lobby. Regularly-priced performances will be at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, September 15; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 20-21; 3 p.m. Sunday, September 22; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 27-28; and 3 p.m. Sunday, September 29. Tickets for each of those performances are $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens (age 65 and over) and $15 for youth (age 18 and under). Group sales are available in all price categories through the Selma Arts Center and Chamber of Commerce. There will also be two Thursday Night Specials, on September 19 and 26, in which adult tickets will be $15, with senior citizens and youth tickets priced at $12.50.
You can keep an eye on future events at the Art Center by checking the Selma Arts Foundation website.
You can find more local arts & entertainment articles in our A & E section.