By Dee Jae Cox
Though New York is often thought to be the heart of the American Stage, Southern California and the desert in particular, certainly claims a part of the soul for this great art form.
It is widely known that theater originated in Greece around the sixth century BC, when the followers of Dionysus, the God of fertility and wine, in addition to some interesting cult ceremonies, would dance and sing in choral from the stories of Greek myth. Theater became an art form throughout the centuries in most cultures and inevitably made it’s way into American society around 1750. At that point theatrical tradition had become polarized between the two liberal cities of Philadelphia and New York – both of which are known to have had established companies operating at that time.
John Steinbeck said that, theater is the only institution in the world that has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive. And so it is no surprise that the Coachella Valley has some of the most dedicated and committed theatrical professionals in the country.
Coachella Valley Repertory, (CV Rep) Theatre Founder and Artistic Director Ron Celona had a vision and a goal to create high quality theater in the Coachella Valley. He stated that, “CV Reps mission with children and adults is that they walk in and through the medium of the performing arts they get to experience a topic that maybe they either didn’t know about or they knew about, but saw a different perspective on the subject. And with a different perspective maybe their world expands and that’s what the arts are about.”
In 2011, after two years of presenting productions on various stages, the CV Rep obtained their own intimate 86 –seat theater space at the Atrium in Rancho Mirage. Since opening their doors, the company has presented more than 30 full-length productions. The theater presents a series of high quality plays that reflect a chosen theme for the Season. Their shows almost always present a welcome balance of gender, racial and cultural representations that seldom fail to inspire an audience.
In addition to their ongoing theatrical productions, CV Rep has created a Youth Outreach Program that presents plays that are of interest and benefit to a younger audience and teaches them to appreciate theater. To date, over 10,000 children have been bussed in (free of charge), to see the plays through the support of Newman’s Own Foundation and the Fremont Foundation. In addition, CV Rep presents a series of Luminary Luncheons featuring celebrities from the stage and screen who participate in Actor’s Studio style interviews. And if that isn’t enough, The CV Rep Conservatory offers classes for children and adults to train in the performing arts (acting, improvisation, and writing).
It’s little wonder that this small theater is bursting at the seams. And with great anticipation, the news of their expansion has just been released. CV Rep plans to purchase the property that now operates as the Desert Cinemas Large Format movie theater (The IMax Theater,) located at the corner of Highway 111 and Cathedral Canyon Drive in Cathedral City and redevelop it into a state-of-the-art live performance playhouse.
A sneak peek of the new venue and a hosted tour was given at the theater’s holiday party held on December 6th. The Bonta Restaurant in Cathedral City hosted the event, next to the proposed new site.
The CV Rep and the City Urban Revitalization Corporation (CURC), owner of the Desert Cinemas movie theater, have signed agreements giving the Coachella Valley Repertory an option for the property that will allow this 86 seat intimate theater to become a 200 seat modern live performance Playhouse, adding a whole new level of cultural arts experiences here in the desert.
CV Rep is planning a post summer-kick-off for its Capitol Campaign. This fundraising effort will raise funds for the building purchase and the launch of this exciting next phase of professional performing arts in the Coachella Valley.
The Word Theatre comes from the Greeks. It means Seeing Place. It is the place where people come to see the truth about life and the social situation. — Stella Adler.
The Coachella Valley is about to have a beautiful new ‘Seeing Place.’
The Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre is located at 69930 Highway 111, Suite 116, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
For Information: call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.californiawoman411.com and www.lawomenstheatreproject.org.