The Golden Chain Theatre is hosting a big party at 6 p.m. Saturday night (Sept. 9) to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Oakhurt’s oldest live entertainment center, and everyone is invited.
The Golden Chain Theatre was born in 1967 with the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce serving as sponsor of the group. The group’s foundation was set with the first production - the hiss-the-villian, cheer-the-hero 19th Century melodrama The Drunkard, performed at the Oakhurst Community Center on July 4, 1968.
In that week’s edition of the Sierra Star, community members were encouraged to come “watch with horror as the unscrupulous, villainous Square Cribbs (Glenn Baker), using nefarious means, and the devil’s own blandishments, to bring a happy family to the very brink of utter ruin. Cry with the unhappy wife and mother (Vivian Sherrell) as she helplessly observes her husband (Dexil Rold) stagger toward damnation.”
The current GCT board of directors decided to bring the show back this past June in honor of the 50th anniversary.
Although the chamber dropped its sponsorship in 1969, the small group of volunteer thespians forged ahead without a home until 1974, when the Snowline Bowling Alley north of town became available.
A leap of faith was made when the group’s board of directors including Pattie Law, Frank Martin, Muriel Carlson, and Betty Dick borrowed $45,000 to buy the building and the property it sat on. The curtain opened at the new theatre in early summer 1974, and the GCT has been providing entertainment to the community and visitors to the area ever since.
Three generations have been on the GCT stage
Mary Ann Parks remembers her first exposure to the Golden Chain.
“It was April 1974, and we had just moved to Oakhurst,” Parks said. “My husband (CHP officer) Hal Parks, knowing I was a dancer told me about the Patti Law School of Dance and the Golden Chain Theatre. I started our 2-year-old daughter Tracy dancing with Miss Patti, and it wasn’t long before Miss Patti had me dancing on the Golden Chain Theatre stage with the other Grub Gulch Garter Girls doing the can can.”
Her dancing career with the GCT did not last long, since she was getting close to giving birth to the couple’s second daughter, Tricia (Parks) Ruiz. Ruiz is the Yosemite High School JV volleyball coach and the mother of Yosemite High senior volleyball player Alli Ruiz, 16, who is currently acting at the GCT.
The Parks and Ruiz children (Alli, 17, and A.J., 10,) all began performing on the GCT stage as children - and even though Tracy (Parks) Barber lives in Santa Cruz, her two children have performed at GCT, and have participated in the Summer Children’s workshops offered there.
Tricia reflects that she practically grew up at the Golden Chain Theatre.
“Some of my fondest memories are running around backstage with my friends,” Ruiz said. “I started on stage at 2 years old and performed into my teenage years. When Alli was about 1-year-old she started to perform in the living room for her family, and it was then that I knew she would be on the GCT stage someday.”
Alli has appeared in many GCT productions, and because she had such a great experience she has decided she wants to perform in college.
Tricia’s firefighter husband Anthony appeared on stage for the first time in February in Cafe Noir.
“You can see how the 50th Anniversary of the Golden Chain Theatre is special to our family,” Mary Ann said. “We had the privilege of working with some of the original board members of the theatre, Patti Law, Sarge Sargentini, and Nick Goldman. Other members of the GCT sill live in Oakhurst such as director Richard Hoffman and wife Candace who spent 40 years performing and supporting the theatre. We also have strong feelings and ties to those original members such as Jerry and Loretta Roope, who lived their lives for theatre and are no longer with us.”
Richard and Candace Hoffman
Candace Hoffman recalls first meeting Law, one of the founding members of GCT and the theatre’s choreographer, in 1973.
“Learning of my dance background, she encouraged me to join the Grub Gulch Garter Girls, the dancers who performed the olio acts for the melodramas then staged at the Oakhurst Community Center,” Hoffman said. “After the current theatre building was purchased and renovated in 1974, I spent the next 22 years dancing, acting and serving on the board of directors of GCT.”
Hoffman called that time the “glory days” of melodrama in Oakhurst.
“I have always been grateful to the founders for their vision for entertainment in our little town ... so many talented people devoted their time and effort to GCT over the past 50 years. Many are gone now, the town is different and GCT is different, but I wouldn’t trade my memories for anything.”
Candace’s husband, Richard, first got involved with GCT in the summer of 1980. After responding to an advertisement in the Sierra Star for a theatre director, he was interviewed by the GCT board of directors and hired to direct the summer melodramas.
“Having earned a Master’s Degree in theatre directing, the GCT provided an excellent opportunity to utilize my directing background and skills,” Hoffman said. “During my 15 years as stage director and artistic director at GCT, directing over 40 plays there, I came to appreciate the growth of many, many dedicated volunteers in all the capacities of producing theatre - the perfect venue for synthesizing creative talents, and my years at GCT provided many pleasurable challenges.”
NOTE: See more photos at sierrastar.com.
GCT’s Golden Gala Sept. 9
Saturday’s Golden Chain Theatre Golden Gala is an event to both celebrate the past 50 years, and to eagerly look ahead to the next 50 years.
“In particular we want to bring together and thank our wonderful community for it’s support as well as to excite and encourage them to continue to be a vital part of the theatre as we move on into the future, said current GCT Board President Sarah Perrsson. “The Golden Chain is truly a community theatre. From running the box office, designing and building sets, house managing, all the tech work and of course actually performing, is accomplished by a large and invaluable group of volunteers. They are the life blood of the the Golden Chain, but all that hard work would be wasted if wasn’t for the great support from the community who religiously come see our variety of productions.”
The gala will feature a preview of the 2018 season, live music and dancing, a silent auction and raffle items, hors d’oeuvres, complimentary champagne and a no host bar.
The silent auction features nearly 60 items donated by area and out of town businesses and individuals including a $100 gift certificate to both Crab Cakes in Oakhurst and Charles Street Dinner House in Mariposa from owner Raymond Newman - Merco Credit Union in Mariposa (Ipad) - Camarena Health (wind basket valued at $300) - tickets to Magic Mountain - tickets to Beautiful, the Carol King Musical, wine baskets and wine tastings, an entertainment center with 32-inch flat screen TV (Sierra Telephone) - China Peak ski packages - a guided fly fishing trip (Sierra Fly Fisher) - golf for four at River Creek Golf Course - artwork - and a variety of gift certificates for dinning and lodging.
Details: Golden Chain Theatre, 42130 Highway 41 - general admission tickets cost $30 and are available at www.goldenchaintheatre.org.