Sunnyvale residents love their Community Theater. And they’re clear that they want to keep the “community” in it.
Last month Sunnyvale held a community meeting to invite residents’ views on current and future uses for the City’s community theater. The large turnout attested to the theater’s reputation and the popularity of its programming.
The Community Theater has been the home of the Sunnyvale Community Players for half a century — currently running The Wiz with a full orchestra — as well as home theater for the Sunnyvale Singers and Sunnyvale’s City-sponsored Cultural Arts performances. Recently, it also became the South Bay home for the Bay Area Children’s Theater.
Until 2017 it was also the home of the California Theater Center (CTC), well known in the area for its program of weekday morning — “field trip”— shows for school children.
Since the CTC disbanded, the theater is more available and it’s a good time for the City to ask residents what kinds of programs they would like to see in the venue, explained Trenton Hill, Sunnyvale Community Services Manager Arts and Marketing. “This [meeting] is the first step.”
Although the theater can be rented for private and corporate events, those at the April meeting were clear that it’s a community service like a library, not a revenue-generating enterprise like a convention center.
That being the case, several at the meeting said that preference for using the theater should be given to long-time Sunnyvale performing groups and free performances.
Several spoke about the importance of theater that is easily accessible and close to home.
“If we have people who are one-time users and they’re not really about the arts, it’s ok if they use it when there isn’t another performance,” said one resident, who asked that residents, theatergoers and music lovers be weighted more heavily in the venue’s use policy “than one-time private events.”
“It would be a shame if the theater was filled up with corporate events” and lost the connection with community, said another resident.
One person asked if the City was actively seeking performances to come into the space. It is “beginning to,” answered Hill.
Meeting participants brought up several improvements they would like to see made to the theater. These include:
- Better signs: “People don’t know the theater is there,” said one participant
- An online presence as a performing arts center with a consolidated calendar of all events in the theater
- Streamlined scheduling
- More wheelchair seating
- Better acoustics for unamplified music
- More visibility into availability and programming
People also said that would like to bring back children’s theater programs like those run by CTC, as well as after school and summer theater programs for young people, “like [Santa Clara’s] Roberta Jones Junior Theater,” said one resident.
“I miss the CTC show so much,” said a teacher. “I miss the hour-long field trip shows.”
The next steps will include a community survey about theater use, and compiling benchmarks for other similar local theaters as part of a Sunnyvale community arts plan that isn’t limited to the theater’s program, said Hill. “We don’t have a Friends of Sunnyvale arts,” he said. “Residents have indicated that’s something they want.”
For more information, contact Community Theater Manager Nathan Truitt (408-730-7472) or Trenton Hill (408-730-7378).