By Elizabeth Arakelian
The Turlock Community Theatre has long been a stronghold in the Central Valley.
Known for its beautiful architecture inside and out, the theatre has played host to international shows as well as local performers throughout its nearly 100-year history.
First known as the Turlock High School Auditorium when it opened in 1925, the auditorium closed in November 1979 after it was damaged by a fire. After years of dedicated work to restore the auditorium by a group of committed community members, the Turlock Community Theatre opened its doors in 1999 and is currently celebrating its 20th season.
To keep the theatre thriving as a gem in the community, the Board of Directors depends on the hard work of many volunteers and the generosity of the regional community. For many years, the theatre’s primary fundraiser event was known as Italian Night, and for the past few years, For the Love of Our Theatre.
This year though, things are changing.
When deciding to establish a new theme for this year’s event, dinner auction co-chairs Alison Morr Gemperle and Linda Murphy-Julien were keen to find something inclusive. In an effort to broaden the theatre’s reach and encourage new patrons of all ages and backgrounds to support the theatre, they settled on this year’s theme: “All the World’s a Stage.”
“Linda and I feel strongly about emphasizing how the theater brings our diverse community together to enjoy performing arts. We want to bring entertainment and celebration of our valley’s cultural heritage to every facet of this evening because that is what Turlock Community Theatre is all about,”Gemperle said.
Gemperle credits dinner chair Nellie Lazar and her son Nick Lazar for proposing the theme as a way to capture the sentiment of the evening.
Along with this year’s new theme, the dinner auction co-chairs created a new event committee structure. An active steering committee is helping plan the event. A host committee is helping with ticket sales and its members include some new theatre supporters who are helping reach out to younger community members. Of special note is the honorary committee, which Gemperle and Murphy-Julien established to honor the longtime support of some of the theatre’s dedicated volunteers, who in years past helped make the theatre’s dinner auction a success. Honorary Committee member Betty Ireland, who helped with past Italian Night fundraisers, is also one of the tireless community volunteers who led the fundraising efforts for the theatre’s restoration.
“Our dinner auction and the theatre are evolving, and although we wanted to involve and recruit our existing audience and longtime supporters, we also want to involve new people,”Murphy-Julien said.
Among those new people is Nick Lazar, a Turlock native and recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz’s art program. Lazar created the graphics for the event, choosing an abstract and colorful theme to highlight a modern take on the theater that will be used for the invitations and marketing materials.
“I came up with this theme to showcase a new side of the theater. By using abstract faces and colors, viewers are able to look at the image and take away what they want from it. It’s inclusive in that it’s not one person or theme, but something bright and upbeat,”Lazar said.
Working closely with dinner chair Nellie Lazar, decor chair Ailin Yadegarian of Yonan’s Floral is designing the evening’s decor with Nick Lazar’s graphics and theme “All the World’s a Stage”as inspiration.
Continuing the event theme throughout the evening, the dinner auction will feature local talent performing various cultural songs and dances. Entertainment chair Kenny Fischer has secured contestants from last spring’s Tam-Tam Talent Show, the theatre’s annual talent competition, as well as members of local performance groups which benefit from the theatre’s reduced rental fees
Additionally, attendees can participate in both a live and silent auction by bidding on a range of specialty items, “experiences”and desserts. Jackie Cotta is returning as dessert auction chair to curate the popular dessert part of the silent auction. This year there will be more donated desserts for guests to bid on to share at their tables or take home, including cultural specialties to accent this year’stheme.
“We’re incorporating sign-up parties into the silent auction this year as the younger generation has shared that rather than buying things they can get on their own, they are more interested in unique, interactive and affordable experiences,”Gemperle said.
The event’s fundraising success could not be possible without the support of many community partners, including the exclusive wine sponsor Classic Wines of California, a division of Bronco Wine Company; the evening’s beer sponsor Larsa Hall; and E. & J. Gallo Winery as the exclusive sparkling wine and spirits sponsor.
“The goal of this event is for everyone to come together and really celebrate our local theater,”Murphy-Julien said. “We are excited to launch this new take on our annual fundraiser and we encourage the community to join us for an amazing evening.”
The Turlock Community Theater’s “All the World’s a Stage”dinner auction fundraiser will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020 at Larsa Hall in Denair.
Dinner Auction tickets must be purchased in advance. Individual tickets are $100 and may be purchased online at www.turlocktheatre.orgor by calling the Turlock Community Theatre box office at (209)668-1169. Please call the box office for table sponsorships, which start at $1,250 for a table of ten.