Showstopping changes ahead for Sonoma Arts Live
Sonoma Arts Live is making a few New Year’s resolutions.
Earlier show times... a higher number of performances spread more widely throughout the year... an immediate transition from the former alliance of different theater troupes into a single theater company... and a decided move toward more artistic and thematic consistency in its choices of plays and musicals. Those are just some of the changes that will be coming in 2016 as Sonoma Arts Live institutes a number of new initiatives as the local theater organization launches its sixth year at the Sonoma Community Center.
One of the biggest changes – a winter series of three shows plus a high-profile youth musical – begins in mid-January with a 2002 play by Nora Ephron, the late writer of the hit movies “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” and the bestselling memoirs “Heartburn” and “I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts About Being a Woman.” Titled “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” the anthology-style play was co-written by Ephron’s sister Delia, and will kick off what Sonoma Arts Live hopes will be a robust season of programming during a time of year when the organization’s offerings have, in the past, been relatively slim.
“We did a big survey last summer, and we asked our audiences what they wanted,” says Jaime Love, Sonoma Arts Live’s executive artistic director. “One of the things they wanted was more material in the winter. A lot of the people who come to our shows go away in the summer, so they said, ‘Why don’t you do more shows in the winter, when there isn’t so much going on?’”
The notion meshed well with the Community Center’s existing January through March schedule. So, according to Love, a winter season was conceived and put together fairly rapidly – though not without a few late nights making calls and sending out emails to assemble the right team members, directors, artists and tech people, and talk them into spending their winter holidays planning and putting on an array of appropriately-themed shows.
“Fortunately, theater people are crazy, in a good way,” laughs Love, “and everyone was excited by the idea, and excited by the shows we ultimately decided to do in our first winter season.”
The launching of the new series coincides nicely, Love points out, with another big change for Sonoma Arts Live: The evolution from its previous incarnation as an “alliance” of theater companies taking turns producing and presenting shows under the SAL banner, to a single theater company to be known, for continuity’s sake, as Sonoma Arts Live.
“It’s a very big leap,” she says. “We started in 2010 as a collective of four or five theater companies. Over the years, some of those companies went and others came in, but under the old system, when a company had the space for a show, it was their space. That was sometimes a wonderful thing, and sometimes a work-in-progress.”
To put it bluntly, the quality of those productions varied widely, acknowledges Love, which made the building of a faithful, regular audience a bit of a challenge.
“When building a brand, you need consistent quality, because that’s what leads to consistent funding,” Love explains. “And though it really was several different groups doing different things, people coming to see shows at the Community Center just saw it all as Sonoma Arts Live, and they had a hard time settling in and being able to depend on some level of artistic consistency.”