BY CARY GINELL
This fall, the Conejo Players will be celebrating its 60th anniversary, and in anticipation of that momentous occasion, the theater will be hosting a special evening event titled “Encore! An Evening Celebrating Theatre.” The show, which takes place on Saturday, March 4, honors the theater’s past, which began before Thousand Oaks was incorporated as a city, by featuring a sumptuous dinner, an evening of entertainment, and presentation of the theater’s third annual Arts Advocate Awards. We visited recently with Deidre Parmenter, President of the Board of Directors, and Patrick McMinn, entertainment director for the event, who told us more about what was going on.
VCOS: First, tell me about the entertainment that will be going on that night.
PATRICK: It will be a 75-minute, one act, musical revue that will bring history to light, it will bring talent to light, through music and dance numbers from the first 60 years of the Conejo Players. We’re going to be re-creating a portion of the shows from the theater’s past and I think that’s a great way to get a feeling of what Conejo Players is all about.
VCOS: When you say it’s bringing history to light, can you elaborate on that?
PATRICK: Well, it’s going to be a multi-media event. We’re actually going to have visuals from some of the productions going back through the decades. For instance, we’ll see something from the original production of Company up on the screen, followed by performances that have been re-created from that. We’ll also put that up against the broader history of what was going on in the country when each particular show was staged.
VCOS: Will any performers from the original productions be making appearances?
DEIDRE: I think we’re going to save that for the 60th anniversary show next year. This year, we’re hoping to bring in some of the historical people who helped set up the theater. Some of them are not around anymore, but there are still people in the community who helped us get our start and who have supported us over the years. But we’re saving some of the really big names for next year.
PATRICK: The show will begin with a short video that looks back to the beginning of the theater. I’m trying to get somebody who was involved, at least in that era, to narrate it. It will be a ninety-second or two-minute piece that features archival footage and talks about why it was founded and what it was like back then in Thousand Oaks. Conejo Players is in its 59th year, so I think it’s a good time to look back before we march forward into the 60th anniversary season.
VCOS: I remember a different kind of event that was done on the 50th anniversary.
DEIDRE: Yes. We had a big open house at the theater. Everybody was invited to come. There was no charge and we had a big fair at the theater. We set up booths with props and hands-on workshops, presented some of the history, and gave people tours of the theater.
PATRICK: I think bringing awareness and anything possible like that is obviously huge. Our current event includes a cocktail reception, a sit-down dinner, a live auction, and is geared to people who have an interest in the theater or who are stakeholders, but I’d also like to be able to attract other people who have never been to the theater to come see what it’s all about. We could have done just a variety show, and I think Deidre and I, when we first talked about this, considered that to be on the front burner, but then I realized that people would come to a variety show, say “that was fun,” and then go home. This is going to be more of a marketing event that showcases the quality of the performances through the years. We have six incredible performers. We’re bringing in Jean Louisa Kelly to host. I had the opportunity to work with her in the past. She’ll be reprising a number that she performed in the film version of The Fantasticks and will take us through five decades of Conejo Players performances. So people will be entertained, but they will also walk away with a greater understanding of what this theater does and its importance to the community.
DEIDRE: We really have two objectives here. One, as Patrick said, is as a marketing piece. We do want to introduce people to the theater who haven’t been there before, and that was especially important to the board and part of the reason we decided to do the event at the theater. People need to see the space and feel the space, which is pretty homey and very comfortable. But the other objective is that we have the Arts Advocate Awards every year. This will be the third annual event, but the audiences for the first two years were somewhat smaller than we had anticipated, so we’d really like to honor our recipients with a nice, big party and decided to incorporate those awards into this event as well. The three awards will be presented at the dinner and then everyone will be able to come to the show afterwards.
VCOS: Who are some of the other entertainers that will be participating?
DEIDRE: Randy Rogel and Cynthia Ferrer will be honorary co-chairs of the dinner part of the evening. Randy’s done writing for The Animaniacs and Cynthia is an actress who has performed in three national tours and has appeared in hundreds of musicals over the years.
PATRICK: The performers who will be appearing in the show are six very talented veterans of the theater, and if you’ve been coming to Conejo Players, you know all of them. But this will not be just your typical variety show. It’s a multi-media show in which there will be a seamless transition from the narration, which brings us into each decade, to live performances. Each of these segments will feature three musical numbers from that decade. For example, when we do the ’80s, we’ll have something from La Cage Aux Folle, Company, and Pippin. Our big production number will be “Good Times Are Here to Stay” from Dames at Sea. But we’ll also have a surprise at the end which I’m not going to reveal anything about. You’ll have to come to the show to find out what that is.
VCOS: Is the Four Star Alliance involved in this event?
DEIDRE: Only for the Arts Advocate Award nominations part. As you know, nominations are open to anybody, not just for Conejo Players people. Otherwise, it’s strictly a Conejo Players event.
PATRICK: We know you like live performers, so we have a four-piece band led by Lisa Yaldezian, who is the music director, and we’re rehearsing it just like we would for a regular musical.
VCOS: Where will the banquet be held?
DEIDRE: We’re setting up a tent in front of the theater, and we’ll have our VIP reception in the back.
PATRICK: The sponsors will be invited backstage to meet and greet Jean Louisa and have a little champagne.
VCOS: How much does all this cost?
DEIDRE: We’re offering tickets for $125 for the dinner and the show and $150 for everything plus the VIP reception so we hope we’ll get a good crowd.
To purchase tickets or to find out more information about “Encore: An Evening Celebrating Theatre,” visit www.conejoplayers.org/encore