Right around ten years ago, a group of friends who’d all had varying degrees of experience on the Broadway stage and television, found themselves in Los Angeles, brainstorming ways to use their mutual singing-and-dancing skills for something loftier than mere fame and fortune.
In short, they hoped to change the world, inspiring others to take risks, belive in themselves, and follow their dreams.
After a short sojourn to a small village in Mexico — putting on shows in the evenings and talking by day about their dreams of the future — the troupe, dubbed Transcendence Theater Company, launched a cross-country “fact-finding” trip in the U.S., searching for places that needed them as much as they needed a home-base to make those dreams come true.
By chance, the troupe arrived in Sonoma County just as it was announced that Jack London State Park was going to be shut down for lack of operating funds. Upon viewing the park — especially the atmospheric, roofless ruins of Jack London’s one-time winery — the group, led by founding members Amy Miller (‘42nd Street’), Brad Surovsky (T.V.’s “Cold Case” and “Veronica Mars”), and Stephan Stubbins (“Mary Poppins”), approached the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association with a proposal. The company would produce a series of open-air evening concerts inside the historic ruins, call them “Broadway Under the Stars,” and would donate a significant portion of the proceeds to help keep the park open to the public.
It’s now six years after that initial series of shows, and to date the company has contributed $267,000 to Jack London State Historic Park. Its shows were named one of the top ten outdoor concert series in the country by U.S.A. Today. Through its Transcendence Connect program, the company is becoming rapidly ingrained in Sonoma County. Balancing its summer shows with other entertainment events throughout the year, Transcendence has also made a strong effort to share its mission of inspiration and encouragement. From Sonoma to Petaluma, company members frequently make appearances at fundraisers and schools, teaching and entertaining at everything from afterschool programs to retirement homes and care facilities — including Petaluma’s Adobe House Memory Care Community.
Now, as Transcendence prepares to launch its sixth summer of “Broadway Under the Stars” shows at Jack London Park, the company is in a reflective mood, and has hinted that the first musical revue show of the season — titled “Another Openin’ Another Show” — will stylistically represent Transcendence Theater Com-pany’s surprise-and-challenge-packed past 10 years.
“We’re very excited about it,” says Stubbins, taking a break between rehearsals for the new show. “The whole trajectory of Transcendence Theatre Company, from the beginning to now, has been a wild ten-year journey, and this show, in a very subtle way, incorporates that journey — mostly through a lot of Broadway songs.”
Though the new show’s artistic choices certainly make it the most intimate and personal the troupe presented since arriving in Sonoma County, Stubbins says it doesn’t really diverge much from the outdoor-concert-revue format established with the first Broadway Under the Stars show in 2002.
“To the audience, it’ll still be a song-and-dance concert performed by people with professional Broadway experience,” he says. “But there’s more of a personal underlying meaning to our choices than in the past. Our story is sort of embedded in the show, but it’s really the story of any artist who decides to take a chance and pursue the kind of life they dream of.”
Transcendence Theater’s 2017 Summer Season
Another Openin’ Another Show – June 16 – July 2, Friday through Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Fantastical Family Night – July 14 and 15, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Fascinating Rhythm – August 4 – 20, Friday through Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Gala Celebration – September 8 - 10, Friday through Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Gates open for picnicking at 5 p.m. Food trucks and wineries will be selling wares. Tickets range from $45 general to $150 VIP. Jack London State Historic Park is at 2400 London Ranch Rd. For information visit Broadwayjacklondon.com.