“Broadway Under The Stars” – A Fine Vintage

Artists and enthusiasts of Broadway stage are naturally well-versed in musical theatre’s exhilarating effect. Given that we aim to inspire, we bring you word of a recently established dance/theatre troupe in San Francisco’s North Bay (wine country), whose significance is worthy of your attention.

Enthusiasts of the performing arts have long entertained the idea of Broadway musicals performed amidst the great outdoors – wine country especially. No actually, not really. But – it was precisely this unlikely pairing that led to Transcendence Theatre Company’s (TTC) stellar vintage idea, to produce “Broadway Under the Stars” in Sonoma Wine Country every summer.

Six accomplished artists, Amy MillerStephan StubbinsBrad SuroskyLeah SprecherRandi Kaye, and Robert Petrarca, whose combined credits include Broadway, the national stage, film and television, transformed their quite literal “field of dreams” concept into a rather fruitful reality.

Artistic director/CEO Amy Miller describes TTC’s philosophy: “Our Company was named after a moment in dance I call ‘transcendence,’ the state of feeling most alive. We are on a constant mission to create ‘transcendent’ experiences on stage and off that inspire our audiences to live life to the fullest.”

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The troupe’s venture began in 2009, as a sojourn from Broadway to Baja. During their four month theatrical residency at the Gertrude Pearlman Theatre in Punta Banda, Mexico,  the artists performed for the community and worked with various orphanages and townspeople. The rewards of their practices were many, which served as a helpful model in establishing TTC.

Collectively, the troupe decided to follow a holistic approach to building and running their organization. In 2010, the artists set off on a cross-country road trip through the US in search of TTC’s future home; a setting for an open-air theatre with transcendent potential.

A year passed before the troupe finally discovered the historic Jack London State Park in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country; the former home of the late author/adventurer Jack London.

What appeared to be a triumphant close to their location scouting became a short-lived dream, but only momentarily. The troupe learned that Jack London State Park was among several other parks slated for permanent closure due to state budget cuts. Initially disappointed, the troupe paused to re-evaluate and concluded a window of opportunity was at hand.

The artists wholeheartedly believed they could produce a Broadway-inspired benefit concert inside Jack London State Park, and raise enough funds to prevent its closure. The park service agreed. In October 2011, the one-night event of song and dance under the stars attracted hundreds of spectators from Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and beyond.

Virtually an overnight success, TTC secured a contract with the California State Parks, granting them the authorized use of Jack London State Park for future Broadway musical productions; the agreement also stipulated that a portion of all future performance proceeds would go toward the park.

TTC’s inaugural season of “Broadway Under the Stars” in the summer of 2012 was a resounding sell-out. Even with the ambitious goal to raise $250K within their first season- TTC met the challenge; a feat few arts organizations could achieve in such limited time.

Last spring I had the privilege of previewing the talent behind TTC, at an informal performance at the Sonoma County Dance Center. All six founding members were present, along with guest artist Rachel Louise Thomas, visiting from Los Angeles. Song and dance from a variety of musicals were performed;  among them “42nd Street,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Dora the Explorer.”

In having the opportunity to hear TTC’s inspiring story aloud and view a sampling of their talent, I fell captive to their transcending effect. Rarely does one come across such a vivacious group so well equipped with the tools for success. Sustaining TTC’s ambitious vision requires a considerable amount of talent, business savvy and organization. Based on what TTC has demonstrated over just a few seasons thus far, nothing short of greatness is in the stars for these high-achievers.

Until next time. Live. Dance. And Prosper.


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