Novato Theater Company Celebrates 100 Years With Virtual Event

Kristina Houck

NOVATO, CA — Although the Novato Theater Company has temporarily closed its doors during the coronavirus pandemic, the community theater is still celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The nonprofit organization is marking the milestone Saturday with "Sharing The Spotlight," a livestreamed fundraiser and auction.

"It is very thrilling for all of us to be involved with a theater that has been producing shows for 100 years," said Marilyn Izdebski, board president of the Novato Theater Company. "It is a huge milestone for us, the city of Novato and for community theater."

The award-winning community theater started in 1919 as a section of the Novato Improvement
Club and was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1947.

Volunteers had been planning an anniversary party with entertainment, dinner and dancing for May. Then came the coronavirus pandemic and the economic shutdown of California.

"Our fundraiser committee switched gears and started working on everything that a virtual event entails," Izdebski said. "It is very different than a live event and very challenging. We have all learned a lot about all things involved in virtual events."

In addition to switching gears for the anniversary celebration, the all-volunteer nonprofit on Nave Drive had to postpone or cancel the remaining shows of its 2019-20 season.

After working for four months on "The Who's Tommy," the show held its preview performance March 12 and was shut down the following day, which would have been opening night.

"It was very wrenching for the cast, crew, staff and all involved," Izdebski said.

The Novato Theater Company also canceled "Sordid Lives," the last show of the season.

The nonprofit has lost an estimated $30,000 from the postponed and canceled shows as well as the canceled theater rentals from March through Aug. 1.

Izdebski said the organization has applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan but has not yet received any funds.

"We are now relying on our donors to pay our overhead of rent and utilities while we are on lockdown," Izdebski said. "Needless to say, it is very stressful."

Organizers are hoping to raise at least $30,000 during "Sharing The Spotlight," which is slated to feature performers from across the Bay Area.

Nearly all of Marin's community theaters share talent, audiences and resources, Izdebski said. Therefore, the online-only event will celebrate Novato Theater Company as well as the local theater groups that have supported the nonprofit through the years.

"The North Bay theater community is a close one," Izdebski said. "The theme of the NTC fundraiser recognizes that we're 'Sharing The Spotlight' with all of the people and organizations that support each other. Some of the best local actors will invite you into their homes and perform songs from various shows."

Live and prerecorded guest performances will include local artists Daniela Innocenti Beem, Carl and Kelly Robinett, Julianne Thompson Bretan and Jon Bretan, Alison Peltz and family, Jake Gale, Tyler Marques and Heather Buck. Additional performers will be added to the lineup, according to the theater company.

Archived videos of songs from previous shows will also be screened based on requests. Fans can nominate their favorite songs by emailing songbook@NovatoTheaterCompany.org.

There will also be a sneak preview of "The Who's Tommy," as well as an online auction.

"We will definitely have a big celebration to honor NTC when we can all safely gather again," Izdebski added. "We will certainly want to celebrate everything we have accomplished in 100 years."

"Sharing The Spotlight" is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Access the YouTube stream at NovatoTheaterCompany.org.

This article originally appeared on the Novato Patch