The Santa Clara Players first set foot on stage in spring of 1962 with its production of “My Three Angels,” set on Christmas Eve in a tropical prison colony in French Guiana. The comedy, made into the 1955 movie “We’re No Angels,” was presented at Santa Clara University (SCU) under the direction of the late Roberta Jones.
Since that first production, there have been more than 150 other productions, yielding over a half century—56 years—of laughs. The Santa Clara Players (SCP) is renowned for its comedies, from the well-known by famous dramatists to offbeat, less-familiar plays. Its 2016 – 2017 season of four productions included “Rumors” by Neil Simon and “Things My Mother Taught Me” by Katherine DiSavino. Its annual December performances of the children’s play “The Christmas Mouse” are a free gift to the community.
Since 2009, George Doeltz has been the driving and dramatic force behind SCP. His family got hooked on community theater in 1990 after he and his wife, Debbie Doeltz, took their eight-year-old daughter, Sara, to see a Santa Clara Junior Theater production of “The Wizard of Oz,” directed by Jones, who had by then left SCP to found the junior theater.
The next year Sara began acting in the junior theater, and George Doeltz lent a hand managing the house. Volunteering for one community production led to another, and in 2000, George Doeltz joined the Santa Clara Players Board of Directors.
Then, when Jim Narveson stepped down as Board president in 2009, George Doeltz, who retired in 2008 from a position at SCU, took the lead. While at SCU, Doeltz had taken every theater course but acting. His daughter got a degree in theater from SCU and volunteers with SCP.
“Art is good for the soul no matter what form it comes in. Art helps you live better,” said George Doeltz. “I just really like the theater. It’s an art form that I can actually handle. It’s rewarding to do this for an audience.”
SCP started out as a program under the Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department. Then in 1968, it became a City-sponsored, nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors and reporting to the City’s Cultural Commission.
SCP has an annual budget of about $30,000 and is financially stable. This is thanks to frugal oversight by its Board of Directors, a City grant ($5,500 in 2017), a base of about 200 faithful subscribers plus single ticket sales, donations and, importantly, a rent-free performance and rehearsal venue.
Faithful volunteers do everything but act. Debbie Doeltz handles the free refreshments served during intermission. The director is paid and the actors, cast from around the Bay Area, get a small stipend that George Doeltz calls “gas money.”
“Acting is a hobby for me. Adults can have day jobs and still do community theater,” said SCP Board member Ashley Faus, who has acted in several SCP productions.
“People that do art say, ‘I wish I could get back to doing plays.’ This provides a great place for them. The audition process is welcoming,” said Faus.
Auditions—and performances—take place in the in the intimate, 72-seat Hall Pavilion, 1511 Warburton Ave., behind the Triton Museum of Art. Auditions are Jan. 2 and 3 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the next production, “Helen on Wheels” by Cricket Daniel. The comedy, which opens with a jail breakout, has 11 performances Feb. 23 to March 17.
“Santa Clara Players does a great job. It’s an opportunity to see a live show and have a life- changing experience. It’s accessible art—not expensive,” said Faus. “It’s a way to come and laugh and feel good for a couple hours with your friends. It brings people together.”
“We’re doing good and still having fun,” said George Doeltz. “I’ll continue doing this as long as I can stand up!”
Visit www.scplayers.org or call (408) 248-7993 for information and tickets.