At the risk of redundancy, hyperbole and shameless fawning, we are compelled to acknowledge once again the extraordinary gift to the Sonoma Valley that is the Transcendence Theatre Company, which concluded its inaugural season of “Broadway Under the Stars” on Saturday.
The showbiz troupe selected Sonoma as their chosen spot to anchor what can, perhaps, be best described as a performing arts experiment, creating not only great entertainment but a great entertainment culture.
This is not a footloose gaggle of unemployed singers, dancers and actors looking for a summer gig to tide them through a sour economy. Transcendence is composed of stellar performers with sterling credentials and oh-my-God gifts of music and dance. Over the course of 14 outdoor performances in the rock-walled, Kohler & Frohling winery ruins inside Jack London State Historic Park, nearly 50 people sang and danced before ecstatic audiences with nary a false note or missed step.
The productions were not only stunning, but each one produced an important contribution to the Park’s bottom line through a $5-per-ticket donation that came close to generating $25,000. That’s a hefty addition to the revenue stream needed to keep the park open.
But that’s not the end of the Transcendence gifts to Sonoma, because this is a company with a unique mission, dedicated, as their literature explains, to “working towards the creation of a powerful and sustainable theatrical model, which we define as the balance and success of our commitments to art, community, health, and the environment.”
The company’s roots grew out of a four-month “Transcendence Artist Project” in Punta Banda, south of Ensenada in Baja. There, the founding members of the company produced a musical while working with a variety of specialists to integrate fitness, nutrition, music therapy and neuroscience into their disciplines. Whatever the amalgam of self-realization practices and creative skills they molded into their work, the end result is a joyous explosion of affirmative theater with a foundation in community service and public education.
What we saw at Jack London this summer may just be the tip of a theatrical iceberg. The transcendence goal is to create a nationally-recognized, sustainably-produced, regional theater company in Sonoma. If they’re successful, the result may be a kind of stone soup of the performing arts, with creative and educational ingredients added to the theatrical stew from all over the local community.
While staging this first season of Broadway entertainment, Transcendence company members also mounted a broadside from the heart, infiltrating nonprofit organizations and children’s programs with performances, presentations and lessons. And they created a week-long kids’ camp to teach performing arts to budding Broadway stars who then got to perform onstage with the Transcendence troupe.
We gather that, as successful as this opening effort has been, there remains a gap between revenue and expense. We hope the community can help find ways to close it. Transcendence Theatre Company is a keeper, and we want to keep it here.