by Maggie Zeibak
We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by …
Applause is usually reserved for the visible actors who take the stage and give us an enjoyable rousing performance, one that is pure entertainment. We are in awe of their abilities to memorize long scripts and capture small gestures and nuances to enhance their character, but we tend to forget who it is that make these shows possible. Our hidden heroes are a small army of dedicated volunteers at the charming Cabrillo Playhouse who keep the theatrical world turning for us, performance after performance.
Our Ole Hansen-style community theater, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, revolves around selfless people who donate their time doing mundane chores and tasks and filling in wherever possible to make each production enjoyable. We overlook the fact that someone needs to oil the cogs to ensure everything runs smoothly, but if we look behind the scenes we find that the small details and fine tuning is efficiently managed.
Usually, all we want to know is how to buy a ticket for the play and date that we want – that’s when Sandra Weaver takes on a major role. She said, “I started out volunteering and now I’m the box office manager. I know my box office staff enjoys meeting the playgoers and welcoming them to the theater. As a volunteer, you feel that you are a real part of the theater and it is gratifying to be able to get them the seats they desire and accommodate their needs.”
Volunteers show up an hour before the curtain opens to check out the computer reservations and have the tickets ready for pickup. Did you know that you are able to select your seat from the online seating plan? There are only 66 seats in the intimate setting, but the volunteers are there to help you find your seat, help with any special needs and hand you the program, professionally designed by Beth Apodaca, who also provides the playbills.
Past patrons of the Playhouse know that one of the highlights of an evening at the theater is the intermission in the garden on the refurbished patio. Wine, coffee and cookies are served for a small donation and the conversation becomes animated, laughter prevails and new friendships are made. Protected from the breeze it is truly a delightful oasis surrounded by a well-tended garden, also maintained by volunteers, and it is here where the Gala Receptions are held on opening nights. A variety of local caterers provide tasty appetizers to kick off the production.
Lee Tilles, House Manager, shared, “We have many committed volunteers, but we would love to have more. Once I have the schedule I work with people to accommodate dates on a rotating basis so that they know when to show up. There is one amazing lady who travels by bus from Laguna Woods to assist us and there are others who live out of town, but regularly help out. Many of the volunteers form bonds and like to work with each other.”
The perks of being part of this group run from self-satisfaction to seeing all the shows, plus the social aspect of meeting new people and enjoying the patrons. People skills and a ready smile are always helpful when you are representing the theater to an audience however there are positions behind the scenes that do not necessitate public contact. Amanda Strader needs help with stage props and if you can build or paint, then they can definitely use you. In fact, you don’t have to have an enormous amount of talent in one area, they can find something useful for you to do.
It’s not always the same thing over and over, challenges will always arise and the capable staff at the theater handled a mini-crisis last year. Remember when the power went out in San Clemente last year? It happened in the middle of a play and the volunteers sprang into action saving the show from being canceled. Quickly, they located flashlights and designated audience members to hold them at an angle, illuminating the stage, so that the show could go on. It did, thanks to the quick-thinking people who really run this organization.
Everyone contributes to making the non-profit theater a success. We’ve seen changes that include the Seat Naming project, which for $125 you can have a plaque attached to a seat with your name on it, or someone that you designate – it’s a great fundraiser, as is the Star Supporter program. The season’s schedule reflects a broader base to appeal to the audience, specifically to all age groups. In addition, there are price adjustments including the ever-popular Senior Discount and 2-for-1 tickets if you aren’t able to buy the Season Tickets. Also, donations of paper goods (cups, plates, napkins etc) are always welcome and will be put to good use at the refreshment table.
A big “thank you” to the generous spirits of the volunteers for donating their time and expertise as they help our community thrive. Give them a call if you have time to spare and see where you can fit in. It’s a worthy cause and greatly appreciated.