|Posted on November 8, 2011 at 11:45 PM|
We had a grand time in Tehachapi. HOW TO MAKE A RED HAT was the first of the nine plays presented and worked very well - lots of satisfying laughs from the audience and, I was told later, there were even more at the Friday and especially the Saturday evening performances, which was very heartening. We did stay overnight so that we could be on time for the no-host brunch, where we met a whole bunch of really nice and enthusiastic local theater folks and several of the other writers.
There was a liittle time to explore before the performance, so we drove up and down the streets, gawking and generally being tourists in a small California mountain town. David drove toward the mountains (he exlaimed with faux surprise to see real mountains in California - are the Denver-born naturally snobs about this?), much less mountains with actual snow on them in October (yes, it can be that way at 6,000 feet). I've never dragged him up to Arrowhead or Big Bear, mainly because in 20 years we haven't found the time. I did, however, drag him across the street from the theater (where we were so early there was a parking space in front), to explore the local crafts and art gallery, which was very impressive.
So it was cold. Okay, not Alaska cold or Denver cold but 40 degrees is cool enough for me to have been grateful I had insisted dragging along the heavy coats we got in London in '04. Just getting from the car to the hotel door with the luggage was a joy at eight o'clock at night and it wasn't more than fifty feet away. Two weeks ago, our corner of the west San Fernando Valley was experiencing a blistering heat wave and it's been that way all summer. I'm amazed I even remembered I own a warm coat, much less to take it along.
Tehachapi is known for being the place where they built "the Loop" - a complete circle of train track that is great fun for passengers because it is possible to see the end of the train as it travels around the curve - necessary because of the steep grade trains have to travel in order to get over the mountains to reach San Francisco. It is still the busiest track in the U.S., we were told - one reason I picked the newest hotel in town: soundproofing! While searching online, earlier, I read one motel critique that shared a positive response to a particular facility - except for the seven trains that went by in the night. This is not hard to believe, once you have seen the place; the whole town sits smack up against the main highway, which runs parallel to the railroad tracks. It appears that everybody in the town lives on the right side of the tracks (if you're going south).
The BeeKay Theatre, home of the Tehachapi Community Theatre, is built behind the facade of the movie theatre built in 1932 that boasted the first neon sign in the area - it's said that people came from miles around just to admire and wonder at the sign. The building was moderately damaged in a major earthquake in 1952 that flattened a great deal of the town, but it continued to function (and run double features!) until the 1970's. With changing times and multiplexes in the larger towns of Lancaster and Bakersfield, the building was remodeled and used for retail, with half-a-dozen businesses; then it was repurposed again and was rented out to the local Moose lodge. Sadly, it literally went up in smoke in 1994. Only the concrete facade remained as it stood abandoned to the elements until the then-City Manager suggested it could be rebuild as a theater for live performances. In partnership with the TCT and funded by grant money and generous donations from private citizens, in 2008, the "restored" (read everything new and state-of-the-art behind that concrete facade) building again became a living entity. It is truly gorgeous, with 120 stadium seats, a professional lighting system and all the amenities including rehearsal space!
Don't let anyone tell you living theater is dying in the hinterlands (yes, Virginia, even California has hinterlands). It thrives and it's inspiring.
There was a reception after the performance - across the street at the restored train depot, which is now a museum. Since it gets dark earlier (we fell back on Sunday) and had rained heavily during the performance, we got on our way before 6 p.m., many warnings about black ice following us out the door. There wasn't any. Thank you, Lord.
Now, here's the really good news: when we arrived at the theater for the show, Karl Shuck, President of the Board of Directors and the event's producer, told me that there is a good possibility HOW TO MAKE A RED HAT might go on the road to Lancaster, for a performance during a Red Hat Society function! Maybe even to an event in Las Vegas next year!
Gotta go print a couple of DRAGON SOLSTICE proof copies for my proof readers.