Bakersfield Mist - Photo by Jim Cox

By Dee Jae Cox

Theatre is often defined as a collaborative form of performing art that brings together professionals with various skills, (Playwright, Director, Producer, Actors, lighting, sound, costume, set designers) and uses live performers, to present a story or experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage.

In actuality, theatre is truly defined by the magic it creates. When it’s done well, a theatrical production can transport the audience into a different world.  Create a magic that exemplifies the difference between seeing a photo of the Roman Colosseum and actually feeling your breath catch as you witness live, the real danger and excitement of a match between gladiators, the heat and the brightness of the sun or the downpour of the rain drenching the characters as streams of sweat trace their skin, one near death, the other a victor. Your heart races and you’re caught in the breath-taking experience of live action theatre.

And each performance is unique.  It will never be performed or experienced in exactly the same way again. That is what makes the theatrical experience pure magic.

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown! – Photo by Michele Wiess

When it comes to imagination, inspiration and creative magic, there are no better offerings than what the Coachella Valley Theatres bring to their audiences.  Each theatre unique with their own personalities and colorful seasons, the desert theatres are truly a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors.  Coachella Valley Repertory, Palm Canyon Theatre, DezArt Performs, Greenroom Theatre, Desert Ensemble Theatre, Desert Rose Playhouse, Desert TheatreWorks and the McCallum, all bring entertainment magic to the desert community.

Coachella Valley Repertory, ( founded in 2008 by Artistic Director Ron Celona, is a professional theatre company granted small professional theatre status by Actors Equity.

Celona once said that “Performing arts is about putting up a mirror to the community and telling stories of real life.” And that is exactly what Coachella Valley Repertory is known for.  In 2019, a year before the Covid Pandemic shut down theatres across the country, CV Rep had moved from their smaller space at the Atrium into a grand 2700-foot stage, 200 seat remodeled former IMAX theatre in Cathedral City.  Since their move they have produced some of the Coachella Valley’s most successful productions.  In 2022 they will be undergoing another major shift in direction, Celona, has decided to retire at the end of this season and prioritize focus on other areas of his life.  CV Rep will continue with a new Artistic Director.

Palm Canyon Theatre, ( Is the longest producing theatre in the Coachella Valley.  PCT was founded by the Layne family and are considered to be the classical Broadway production venue in the desert.  They produce on average of approximately 14 shows per season. With top tier actors, directors and production values, this theatre pays homage to some of the best classic shows to ever grace a stage. The Layne’s are definitely one of the most talented families in the desert, directing, acting, building sets, designing lights, sound and producing their shows along-side some of the desert’s most talented performers.

Beebo Brinker – Photo by Becky Johnson

DezArt Performs, ( founded by Michael Shaw and Daniela Ryan, provides an artistic home for bold and cutting‐edge plays. They excel at producing contemporary plays that audiences in the Coachella Valley may not have the chance to see unless visiting a larger city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego.

The Desert Rose Playhouse, ( under the Artistic Direction of Robbie Wayne, Desert Rose Playhouse is the Coachella Valley’s LGBTQ Affirming theatre. Their mission being to most often produce shows with gay characters or themes.

Desert Theatreworks, ( founded by Ron and Lance Phillips, DTW is a community inspired theatre who are vested in the artistic energy that feeds a city, a culture, and a society. They produce many classic shows as well as making an effort to stage shows that are not often produced.

Desert Ensemble Theatre, ( produces innovative plays that underscore the complexity of human interaction. They also produce some exciting new original works as well as established productions.

Green Room Theatre, ( founded by Board President Karen Lin and Artistic Director David Catanzarite. The Greenroom Theatre creates new works, reinvents classics and produces many wonderful productions with young actors. They also produce readings and special events in celebration of the most famous bard, William Shakespeare.

McCallum Theatre, ( under the Artistic Direction of Mitch Gershenfeld, plays host to some of the most impressive and nationally known touring productions. Singers, performers and full productions are staged for single events and multi-night shows

Sweat – Photo by David A. Lee

All of the above named desert theatres are non-profit organizations whose sole purpose is to provide entertainment, create art, produce, educate and support the Coachella Valley Community.   They struggled and survived the pandemic like many businesses and came out the other side of the pandemic reclaiming their muses and magic.  Most also offer performing arts camps and programs for young actors and make great contributions to education and the arts here in the Coachella Valley.

Theatre is so many things to so many people.  It’s living and breathing in real time. It’s the culmination of so many creative and artistic individuals combining their talents to bring a shared experience to the audience. Theatre makes you think and feel.  It presents ideas and stories that enrich our lives and heighten our senses.  It increases knowledge and literacy, shedding light on new worlds and experiences.  Telling stories that help us to grow and become more a part of the world around us.  Theatre is an integral part of our community. Two thousand years after the Greeks first began performing in the amphitheaters, theatre still provides the same magical experience that it has for centuries.  Make magic a part of your world.

Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer.  She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project 

And Co-Creator of the Palm Springs Theatre Go-To Guide,