Originally published April 2016
To share in providing the community with a year-round schedule of affordable live theatre produced to serve the cultural, educational, and entertainment needs of the community. To welcome and provide an avocational opportunity for all volunteers interested in the theatre arts to participate in the many activities of community theatre.
I really enjoyed reading about Conejo Players Theatre's exciting history (check out their great story). The success of building the theatre over the years to meet its growing needs is inspirational. What are future dreams for the theatre's vision or programming, and how do you hope the theatre facility will grow along with them?
We are currently assessing what our audience members want to see, but we always strive to have an element of “pushing the boundaries” just a little -- to open our audience's minds to new things. In terms of the facility, we have a ton of plans -- the most prominent of which is to expand our lobby to accommodate a snack bar and create more space inside for inclement weather; and to update restrooms.
It looks like Conejo Players Theatre has volunteer staff. Can you describe that structure, and also the Board of Directors structure? How are the day-to-day tasks managed? What about producing tasks (ex: do you have an artistic leader/team)?
Conejo Players is an all-volunteer organization. The Board of Directors consists of 10 individual positions, four of which make up the Executive Committee. The Board meets annually to plan for the upcoming year, then monthly to manage whatever is needed. The Executive Committee (the Executive Director, Executive Producer, Executive Technical Director, and President) meets as often as needed to handle anything that comes up between Board Meetings. The EC also decides the season and chooses the directors for each show. The directors choose their own teams, but the EC and the Board are ultimately responsible for ensuring the success of a show.
Conejo Players Theatre accepts new full-length plays, comedies, musicals, and plays for children. Do you produce a new works festival or showcase, or do you produce submitted new works as part of your main season?
When we are able, and a new show fits in with our plan, we produce new works as part of our Mainstage season.
Describe the community of Thousand Oaks’ participation/interest in community theatre, and your efforts in keeping them excited and loyal to CPT.
The Conejo Valley has an amazing array of community theatre! CPT participates in a local coalition of community theatres called the Four Star Theater Alliance (the group has six theatre members, total). We all work together to support each other and promote the arts in our community. CPT’s goal is to appeal to both local and regional audiences, and to actors, with the shows we produce. In addition, we offer free workshops, and partner with other charities in the community; we recently directed a holiday benefit for Paw Works, an animal advocacy group, and have participated in benefit performances for both the Goebel Senior Center and CMATO.
Are there particular challenges or advantages to being near but not located in Los Angeles?
We have a hugely talented pool of people in this community (and beyond). It's pretty fun when folks who have been on our stage go on to do, films and TV, or appear on the Broadway stage; a few notable CPT alums include TV actor Corey Fogelmanis (currently appearing on Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World), Broadway vet Jenna Leigh Green (Wicked), and New York theatre director Robert W. Schneider (Sweeney Todd: Live from Lincoln
Center). We do think there is more of an appetite for good theatre in this area because of our proximity to Los Angeles.
How are shows or seasons chosen?
The Executive Committee accepts submissions and ideas from the community and local directors, then makes decisions on the season based on several factors -- like what shows we think the patrons will enjoy; the cost of the shows; whether or not we can receive the performance license; etc.
You offer many workshops - both artistic and technical. That's wonderful. How have you formed a base of folks attending workshops, and also of workshop leaders?
We are still working on this. We’re often faced with a challenge, in that our stage is almost always in use - so scheduling workshops is a work in progress. However, we do try to choose leaders who have experience, and classes that people are interested in. We are partnering this year with Thousand Oaks’ regional musical theatre company, Cabrillo Music Theatre, for one of the workshops -- which is an exciting addition.
Describe your audience.
Generally speaking, our audience is made up of local community members -- but depending on the show, we often welcome ticketholders from all over Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and even as far north as Santa Barbara.
How do you get to know your audience on a personal level?
We go out into the surrounding area and try to “meet them half-way,” by actively participating in community events --such as the annual Thousand Oaks Street Fair (where we man several informational booths) and the Thousand Oaks Arts Festival, where we often perform numbers from our yearly Children’s Theatre production; we also reach out to locals at the yearly Goebel Senior Center Wellness Fest, providing entertainment for
them when needed. We recently partnered with the SCIARTS Blackboard Gallery in Camarillo; they provided us artwork to display on the set of one of our productions. Additionally, we charge our front-of-house volunteers (Box Office staff, House Managers, ushers, ticket takers, and Snack Bar volunteers) with connecting directly with our patrons when they come to see our shows. Any feedback received is communicated to the Board and the Executive Committee, and we use that feedback to help inform many of our decisions -- including play selection, pricing, theatre policies, and more. Finally, we do occasionally send out questionnaires to our patrons to get a better understanding of what they are looking for in their community theatre.
What kind of support do you have from your community for your community theatre?
We have some very loyal season subscribers, and a large theatre family who log thousands of hours each year to keep this theatre running. We are currently looking to expand support in several areas. While CPT has been in business for more than 50 years, we still seem to be a “hidden gem” -- so we’re in the process of inviting local business and community leaders to come and learn about us …
What do you think 'makes' community theatre community theatre?
A sense of camaraderie, a feeling of “family,” and a shared love of the arts truly put the “community” in “community theatre.”