According to Laura Hagler, one of the founding members of Tracy Repertory Theatre, the idea materialized one night in January during karaoke at a downtown watering hole.
She and several others were talking about the need for more youth art opportunities in Tracy: Poet Christian School’s magnet program is shuttered because of state budget cuts, and high school plays and musicals don’t reach out to younger aspiring actors.
In search of another outlet, the realization zoomed straight from stage left.
“If anybody’s going to do this, it’s going to be us,” Hagler said.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, July 13: Tracy Repertory Theatre is a budding reality, one of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts’ presenting partners. And that day at the old Opera House on Central Avenue, teens were busy rehearsing for the troupe’s first show in August.
Director Vanessa Espino said the rush is on to prepare for the one-night showing of “A Totally ’80s Show,” a fundraiser to kick off the repertory theatre’s first season.
“I’m nervous and excited,” said the 25-year-old, a first-time director and playwright. “I wrote the musical, so it’s my first time out with the material.”
Espino said she’s thankful for the opportunity to try a new role in theater.
“It’s nice to just have a place to explore creatively and bring these kids together,” she said.
It’s exactly that stretching of wings the theater is built for, Hagler said. Working in several plays over the course of her life in Tracy, Hagler said she’s seen quiet, reserved kids bloom into self-confident smile factories thanks to theater.
“We wanted to really be focused on providing the opportunity for children and teens … to learn acting, singing, dancing and learning the technical aspects of theater,” she said.
But building an acting house from the ground up isn’t easy. Hagler said she and her fellow board members have reached out to the community for funding and support.
So far, they’ve been lucky.
More than $800 has flowed in from individual donors, and M&M Building Supplies has given space to build and materials for set pieces.
The 7 p.m. Aug. 13 production of “A Totally ’80s Show” is also a fundraiser. The troupe won’t officially open its first season until “A Little Princess” hits the Grand Theatre’s black-box studio theater in November, to be followed by a rendition of “Annie” in May.
Eventually, Hagler wants to put on four or five shows a year at the Grand. She admitted, though, that it will to take hard work and community involvement to get Tracy Repertory Theatre where the board members envision it going.
“We’re starting small,” Hagler said — but she hopes the impact on Tracy is big.
“This is going to be fantastic. We’ve got such a great response from people.”
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