The Stagehands civic theater group on Saturday celebrated 50 years of making people laugh or bringing them to tears.
The Stagehands was established in 1969 by Dan Lee, Sarah Toon, Joanne Ferraiuolo, and Colusa County Fair Manager Robert Bisho. The group held numerous performances over the years since first bringing the community John Patrick’s comedy “The Curious Savage,” that same year.
“I was there for the beginning,” said Ferraiuolo, at a celebration in Veterans Memorial Park on Aug. 10. “It was an exciting time.”
The Colusa City Council and the Colusa County Board of Supervisors, in proclamations, declared Aug. 10, 2019 as Stagehands Day in Colusa. Proclamations also recognized the group for their years of community service.
“For the past 50 years, with few exceptions, members of The Stagehands have provided comedies, musicals, dramas, children’s theater, and produced plays from local playwrights,” said Kent Boes, Chairman of the Colusa County Board of Supervisors, who presented the proclamation to Stagehands President Devin Kelly on July 30. “The Stagehands has provided support services to schools and other civic community events, assists in the production of the Miss Colusa County pageant, and provided volunteer hours for the 44th District Agriculture Association.
The Stagehands has produced over 100 productions, with participation of hundreds of Colusa County citizens over the past five decades.”
Member Sue Gibbs has been with the group for 47 years, and has assumed all roles, including actress, lighting and stage, director, and playwright. Charlie Franklin, 18, caught the acting bug just one year ago.
“I’ve only acted in one play,” Franklin said. “I was asked to do it and I fell in love with it while doing the one play that I did, which was Charlotte’s Web. I had a great time. I will be ready for the next play if they need me.”
Tom and Sharon Reische went to see Stagehands’ 1990 production of acclaimed musical “The Music Man,” and have acted in numerous plays since then.
“It’s stuck this entire time,” Sharon Reische said.
Saturday’s celebration of Stagehands’ golden anniversary included a large display of memorabilia from the last 50 years, including numerous posters, scrapbooks containing newspaper articles, and a booklet published by Lee, an historical account of the civic theater’s first decade.
“The Stagehands, as we came to be known, was never intended to be a temporary organization,” wrote Lee, who lives out of state, on Dec. 17, 1970, just one year after the group was formed. “It was never intended to include only a few, but the many who would share with us the experiences of an honest, dedicated program of shouldering the life of civic theater responsibilities and fun.”
Saturday’s event included a finger-food breakfast, and the troupe’s annual membership meeting and election of officers.
The Stagehands will present “Terms of Endearment” this coming November on the two weekends preceding Thanksgiving.
Auditions for the play will be held at 6 PM on Aug. 20 and Aug. 22 at the Stagehands Theatre on the Colusa County Fairgrounds, with production starting in September.
“It’s such a dramatic play,” said director Nicole Lunsford, who is looking for five ladies, three men, and a few small parts. “There are four really big parts.”
The play is based on the 1983 movie by the same name, staring Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in the leading roles.
Lunsford, who got involved in Stagehands about 13 years ago, said the movie resonated with her and she is looking forward to the production.
Lunsford said support for Stagehands has become greater in the last few years since the Colusa movie theater closed.
“People are going back to live performances,” she said. “That has been great for us.”
Lunsford’s son held a golf tournament to raise the money for Stagehands to produce the high-royalty play, but the group still needs people to come out and see it.
“We need attendance,” she said. “That’s key to our success.”
Youth are especially encouraged to volunteer to help with backstage duties, such and lights, props, sound, wardrobe, and makeup.
“We need all of that,” Lunsford said. “If they want to be involved, I am happy to let them shadow us. It’s so important, because they are going to be the ones to take this over.”
Kelly, who presided over the business meeting on Saturday, thanked everyone who came out for the event and the community who has supported the organization for the past 50 years.
“It means a lot to all of us,” she said. ■