We already sang the praises of the very unique Mill Valley, California. In that Nook Neighborhood piece, we barely scratched the surface of the cool arts and culture scene that still exists today. Besides live music and visual arts, Mill Valley is home to one of the West Coast pioneers of new plays: The Marin Theatre Company.
In 1966, the Mayor of Mill Valley formed its first Arts Commission with Sali Lieberman as its leader. Two years later, they incorporated the Mill Valley Center for the Performing Arts (MVCPA), an all arts-inclusive producing company, before focusing on live theatre in 1977 and officially changing its name to Marin Theatre Company in 1984.
Here are some fun facts about the theater community that has brought so many local artists to light and tourism to Mill Valley:
Marin Theatre Company was the first regional Bay Area theater to have a union contract with Actor’s Equity of America. Today, the Bay Area boasts 50 theatre companies in the 9 counties composed from the Cities of Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, with Marin continuing as one of its tucked away leaders in new play premieres.
The Mill Valley Center for the Performing Art's first production was Friedrich Duerrenmatt's The Physicists -- a bold choice for an inaugural presentation and in line with the counter-culture of the time. The Physicists, first performed in 1962 Zurich, questions whether any person - be they a scientist or politician or other -- should hold the power of nuclear weaponry. You know, light fare for a new community theater.
On a more festive note, at Marin you can pre-order beer and wine to sip before the show. Go to their website and choose the festivity that will get you in the mood for a recent classic, or brand new play, or the most cutting edge new voice so you can say you saw their play before they got famous. For instance...
Pamela Feinsilber, a Bay Area arts journalist, recalls how she was introduced to the talent behind last year’s Oscars favorite Moonlight. “One of the first plays I saw at MTC, back in 2010, was Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s In the Red and Brown Water, the first in his Brother/Sister Plays trilogy (the other two were produced that season at theaters in San Francisco and Berkeley, respectively). Five years later, MTC presented McCraney’s terrific Choir Boy. Now he’s getting a ton of attention for Moonlight: A major Oscar contender, the movie is based on McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue; McCraney himself is up for an Oscar, with director Barry Jenkins, for best adapted screenplay.”
Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis produced professional classical and new plays for eight seasons in Cincinnati before arriving in Marin Theatre. Out of the 70 shows that he produced, Miadakis directed 37 of them. During his tenure, the company’s budget grew from $17,500 to $720,000. He also played a key role in launching the League of Cincinnati Theatres. Now at Marin for eleven years, Minadakis’s production of The Whipping Man was honored with the San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for best production and best acting ensemble.
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