It was a night to remember the people who founded the Golden Chain Theatre, to recognize some special volunteers, and take a peak at the 2018 season last weekend.
The Sept. 9 semi-formal Golden Gala was held to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Golden Chain Theatre.
In a surprise announcement, the stage at the GCT was named after longtime Golden Chain supporter Mary Lou Finley.
It was Finley’s grandson, Landon Weiszbrod, who had the honor of introducing Finley, who has been involved with the GCT for more than 20 years - 15 as a board member, and nine as president of the board.
Weiszbrod reflected on a time that the Golden Chain was having financial difficulties during the Great Recession (2007-2010), with a drop in attendance, including a reduction in the number of tour buses that used to routinely take in a show.
“During that time, Mary Lou did everything she could to keep the lights on and the doors open,” Weiszbrod said. “She carried this theatre on her back for years, and when the roof had leaks, she literally put a roof over our heads. The Golden Chain Theatre would not be here today without Mary Lou. She’s a living legend and patriarch of the Golden Chain Theatre,” Weiszbrod proclaimed, followed by a standing ovation from the crowd of 120.
“I have never felt so ‘queenish’ in my whole life,” Finley said after the presentation. “I was overwhelmed with the love from people congratulating me the entire evening.”
Finley said it is absolutely unbelievable for her to be part of the GCT family and was happy to share the great night with her dear friend Jeri Barron.
“In my heart, I feel like I am sharing the stage with Patti Law,” Finley said, referring to one of the founders of the GCT and long time dance instructor and choreographer who
Of everything she has done for the GCT, Finley said her proudest achievement was bringing in some of the new talent, including Jennifer Janine, James Mierkey and Sarah Perrsson, that has helped revitalize the GCT over the past five years.
Two other grandchildren (Weiszbrod’s sister and brother), Lacey Perez and Austen Hurst, also attended the celebration, as did Finley’s 40-year companion Buddy Muller.
Another surprise came when Persson announced that the bar at the GCT will now and forever carry the name “Jeri’s Bar,” in honor of 25-year supporter (18 on the board), Jerry Barron.
When entering the theatre with her two daughters, twin sister (Georgie Dayton), and friend Carol Pace, Barron saw the sign above the bar door.
“I had to look a couple times to believe what I was seeing,” Barron said. “I was so stunned and so appreciative - I burst into tears right then and there. It was magical. I felt like I would wake up the next morning and realize it was just a dream. I have never been so surprised and honored in my life. When you are recognized for doing what you love to do, it’s a little mindboggling.”
Barron first graced the stage at the Golden Chain 25 years ago as a member of the hilarious Grub Gulch Grannies dance team. Years later, she was named Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Lizzie Bordon.”
About 20 years ago, then board President J.R. Frolich asked Barron to take over the duties of the bar manager, a position she still holds.
“My sidekick behind the bar is Carol Pace. We have been going to Fresno once a week for 20 years to buy supplies for the bar,” Barron said.
“Over all these years I have formed so many loving relationships with so many people,” Barron said. “The Golden Chain is my second home and my second family,” Barron said.
A couple of actors (JR Romero and Darla Dean) shared touching stories about how the Golden Chain Thaetre changed their lives.
“It seems like such an easy thing to say ‘GCT has been around for 50 years,’ but honestly it is an incredible feat, dare I say a miracle, that has taken the courage, perseverance, passion and dedication of several generations to achieve,” Creative Director Janine said. “It was so wonderful to be able to honor some of those who have dedicated so many years to the long term health and longevity of this jewel of our mountain community.”
“I feel that GCT is beginning to turn a corner in the way we communicate to the community what the real basic needs are on a daily basis to run GCT,” Janine explained. “It’s never comfortable to talk about the nuts and bolts of running a prosperous theatre, but the reality is that without individual show sponsorships and gifts from our community the production value of our shows would greatly suffer. The Golden Gala was a beautiful celebration of the last 50 years and marked the beginning strides to ensure the GCT will be around for another 50 years.”
2018 Golden Chain Season
Janine had the honor of unveiling for the first time the GCT’s 2018 schedule. Each production was announced with a portion of a scene from each show being performed to the delight of the audience.
“We are hoping that our 2018 season will entice theatre lovers to purchase our very affordable season subscriptions and become an important part of the GTC family,” Janine said.
The 2018 schedule is as follows:
☆ Annie: March 2-25
☆ The Great Gatsby: May 4-20
☆ Egad, The Woman in White (Summer Melodrama): June 8-24.
☆ Oklahoma: Aug. 10 - Sept. 2
☆ Much Ado About Nothing: Sept. 21 - Oct. 7
☆ A Christmas Carol: Nov. 23 - Dec. 23
Additional Special Events
☆ Killing Mr. Whithers: Feb. 16-18
☆ Sing Along sound of Music: July 27-29