Since 2006, I have reviewed more than 100 local theatrical productions and gained a profound appreciation for both the enormous effort that goes into making a quality show and the tremendous benefits both performers and theater goers derive from it.
Numerous community theater and school programs kept the arts alive through the years, including The Belfry Players, Young Actors of Fairfield, Fairfield Civic Theater and more. Venues included the now-demolished Armijo Auditorium, community center and just about anywhere a stage could be found or made.
Local residents recall stories of “breaking legs” back when:
Barbara McFadden: My parents were very active with the Belfry Players. Rehearsals were in living rooms and shows were done at school cafeterias. The first show I ever performed in was with them and directed by (now Fairfield Mayor) Harry Price. I also worked with “We, The Valley Stage Co.” which folded shortly before Fairfield Civic Theatre began. I performed with FCT at the groundbreaking of the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts when it was still a dirt lot, and also performed at its Gala Grand Opening – exciting times for all of us involved in local arts.
Liz Towne Andrews: In my youth, I was terribly shy. I started dancing when I was 7 and became quite serious about it. By age 13, my mom signed me up for private singing lessons with the wonderful Connie Lisec. Although I was nervous, Connie talked me into auditioning for the musical “Oklahoma!” being produced by Young Actors of Fairfield. That experience would change my life forever. Not only did I get over my shyness, but it made me a very confident person and I have been involved in theater since. When looking back at the shy little girl I once was, I shudder to think what my life would have been like without dance and theater.
Jim Treganza: I have many happy memories of performing in the old Armijo auditorium under the direction of drama teacher Jack Burrill. Later, I worked briefly with Dr. Phil Rashid to try and save the building, but it was too late. They had already decided to build that “multi-purpose” facility in the Civic Center, which is of course worthless for any type of serious theater.
Lillian Miller: Armijo and Fairfield combined to put on a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” when I was in high school. There was a huge dance scene, some really talented singers, and it was on the gym floor at Armijo (it was too big for a stage). It was a fantastic production, I still have the entire musical memorized and I can almost remember the dance.
Alan Thomas Hirschenhofer: I remember how the rec departments used to have plays in the summer at the city auditorium. One year, I’m thinking 1970, I was in a production of “Peter and the Wolf.” I remember the trees kept falling over during the play on the set and I think I yelled out to the “grandfather” to be careful because the wind was blowing so bad he could get hurt. We stayed out of trouble, had fun and made new friends from all over town. Whatever happened to such a successful program?
Kevin Tenney: My senior year at Fairfield High, all the guys in a play (Randy Allen, Michael Duch, Casey Jones, Steve Medina, Jim Quinn, and my brother, Dennis and I) would go down to the park after rehearsals and play full-contact football with absolutely no safety gear. Our drama teacher, Mrs. Dougherty, asked us to quit until the play was over. She didn’t want any of her actors getting injured. Of course, we didn’t listen. When we showed up for the final dress rehearsal, I was on crutches and Steve had his arm in a sling. Since I was the lead and Steve was the main villain, Mrs. Daugherty looked like her head was going to explode. We didn’t have understudies, so Mrs. Dougherty didn’t know what to do. Steve then pulled off his sling, and I threw down my crutches. It was a joke. We were both fine. I don’t think Mrs. Dougherty knew if she wanted to kiss us or kill us. Probably both . . .
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]