Eleven years ago, Terry Cunningham had a brilliant idea -- since he wanted to get back into acting and didn't want to travel all over the Bay Area to audition, he'd have a theater of his own and do his acting close to home.
And with that, the San Ramon Community Theater was launched, and, almost as quickly, Cunningham found himself bogged down in administrative details with little time left over for acting. Soon, he'll be relinquishing some of his duties at the theater so he can do more acting.
"So, I'm doing both those things for the same reason," he says. "But it isn't going to survive if we can't save the theater."
It's a thought that haunts Cunningham who, although he wants to do more acting, hates the idea of seeing the theater he has nurtured for 11 years fail because the right people won't be available to run it.
"People have stepped forward, but they don't have the time for all this -- it takes more time than you know," he says. "It's just a conglomeration of everything."
So he's beginning to hold a series of Thursday night meetings, at which interested people will go over the myriad things that go into running what has developed over the years as a classic little theater.
"By the community, for the community," he says with much pride in his voice. Even though it's a tiny, 90-seat theater tucked cozily into a corner of the Dougherty Station Community Center at 17011 Bollinger Canyon Road, even if the shows play only about 12 performances, attention must be paid to many detail.
Somebody has to direct, build sets, sew costumes, plan the lighting, secure the music, design and print the programs, shoot publicity pictures and do dozens of other things critical to producing a successful play.
"I'm not the best person at asking people to do the things I can do myself; the playbills, the purchasing -- those things I can do," says the former accountant, who is hoping a rule by committee and consensus can prove a way to have a number of people taking care of the necessary tasks on a more or less regular basis.
And people are always willing to volunteer for a show or two. Getting help has never been that much of a problem, but the real concern is having one solid individual or a permanent committee making the decisions on a day-to-day basis
"With the committee we've put together, we've been able to choose the season, assign directors, but there's much more that needs to be done," he says, pausing for the punch-line, "actually, dictators do a much better job in many ways.'
Cunningham's concern for the theater he and Elizabeth Benson cofounded 11 years ago is touching. There is an obvious affection there for the little theater that does about three shows per season.
At times, he speaks of it as something of a child growing older and moving toward adulthood, easily recounting funny moments and memories and absolutely convinced the little theater has changed and enriched a good number of lives in town.
And it will continue. Auditions were held this week for "Sleepy Hollow," a musical that will open in September, followed by "Happy Holidays," a Christmastime show, and "Robin Hood," the spring show.
Cunningham won't direct any of them. But he'll be around, maybe in the role of an executive director, helping with the hard-knocks theater education he's gotten over the past decade. He'll be there in some sort of role, probably. But, just maybe, he'll be on stage somewhere else, too.
TRI-VALLEY HIGH, THE SERIES: An improvised teen soap opera from the award-winning Creatures of Impulse, a 26-member team of high school-age improvisers, continues its series for the next two Wednesdays.
The group performs in Pleasanton's Firehouse Arts Center Theater and will enlarge its tales of teen angst with plot suggestions from audience members to help create characters, locations and other plot points.
"Tri-Valley High" continues through July 31, when the grand finale will be staged in the Firehouse. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. in the theater at 4444 Railroad Ave. in Pleasanton. Tickets, at $10 in advance or $15 at the door, may be reserved at 925-931-4848 or www.firehousearts.org.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.