Marijke Rowland

Gallo Center steps up its theatrical side

Jim Johnson is the artistic director of the new Gallo Center Repertory Company.
Jim Johnson is the artistic director of the new Gallo Center Repertory Company. Modesto Junior College

Modesto is about to get a new theater company from a very familiar name in area entertainment.

Gallo Center for the Arts is launching its own Gallo Center Repertory Company next season. The new group will present a series of original productions featuring community and student actors starting this summer.

Since its debut in 2007, the Gallo Center been one of the Central Valley’s premiere performance venues. As a presentation organization it regularly brings in big names, acts and productions. Over the years the center has dipped its toe in the production side, putting on shows like the newly renamed “The Valley Talent Project” (formerly “Valley’s Got Talent”) and other shows and collaborations.

But now, with the creation of its new repertory company, the center has taken a more assured step into the production business. Gallo Center CEO Lynn Dickerson said the expansion into original theatrical productions was an organic evolution for the venue. Gallo has put on shows in collaboration with the Sankofa Theatre Company, Modesto Junior College, Prospect Theater Project and others over the years.

In 2014 the center presented its first original solo production, the Truman Capote work “A Christmas Memory.” Then last year the center staged a production of “Inherit the Wind,” based on the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. Now they want to offer more.

“One of the primary reasons is because there are so many talented people looking for more outlets for their creativity in the community,” Dickerson said.

This year Gallo Center Arts Education Coordinator Jim Johnson, who has spearheaded the center’s theatrical productions, said he decided to put on a series of shows with the new repertory company. All the shows will be presented in the center’s 444-seat Foster Family Theater.

“We’re developing something here that can take on its own identity. I think we’re going to be drawing people who have worked in all of these various other companies (in the region) and have developed these skills and will be sharing those with the Gallo Center,” Johnson said. “This is another opportunity for artists to have great opportunities in the community.”

For its inaugural season the Gallo company will present an eclectic and ambitious slate of shows. They are:

▪ “The Exonerated,” a play about death-row inmates who were later exonerated and freed, July 8-9.

▪ “The Diary of Anne Frank,” the stage adaptation of the life of Anne Frank, Nov. 4-6

▪ “Too Many Tamales,” a family play by Central Valley writer Gary Soto, Dec. 9-11

▪ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” the Tony-winning drama about marital discord, March 10-12

▪ “Sangre de un Angel” (“Blood of an Angel”), a bilingual play about a teen who gets wrapped up in gangs, April 7

Johnson said the production staff, including director and technical crews, will be paid for the Gallo productions. But the actors, a mix of community actors and student performers, will be volunteer.

While the region has no shortage in theatrical companies – from the professional companies like Sierra Repertory Theatre to community theaters like Modesto Performing Arts and beyond – Johnson said having a group through the Gallo Center presents a unique opportunity both for casts and crew. He said the group will be complementary, not competitive with existing organizations.

“I think the arts are just blossoming in Stanislaus County. The fact that we have so much going on speaks to the interest from the public in attending these plays and quality of productions being done,” he said. “The main difference will be working in the Gallo Center itself. To have access to all of the talent of our permanent staff here plus the great marketing tools of the Gallo Center.”

For more on the new Gallo Center Repertory Company, visit www.galloarts.org.


Elsewhere around the Scene:

Snoop Dogg’s coming back to take another bite out of Modesto.

The Doggfather is set to appear at downtown Modesto’s Palladium nightclub June 23. The hip-hop superstar is slated for an hourlong appearance, which will include some performing and DJing at the club. Tickets will go on sale soon at 209party.com and will be $35. The nightspot will make about 600 tickets available.

In February, Snoop played a sold-out show at the 524-person capacity Fat Cat Music House & Lounge in downtown Modesto. At the time he vowed to return, saying “ I will be back to Modesto, California, anytime you … want me to come back.” Guess he wasn’t kidding. For more information, call 209-522-8899.

And finally, I hope you got your tickets to the inaugural Talento Vivo en el Valle competition this Saturday, May 14, already.

The new talent show, which will feed into the popular Gallo Center show “The Valley Talent Project” (formerly “Valley’s Got Talent”), has sold out. More than 20 acts are set to compete in the new event, which will showcase some of the area’s best ballet folklórico dance groups and mariachi/ranchera singers. For more information, visit www.galloarts.org.

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