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Delay at Gallo bumps 1st play

The first production at the Gallo Center for the Arts has been canceled because the theater won't be ready.

The Youth Entertainment Stage Company was scheduled to perform the musical "Seussical" from Aug. 24 through Sept. 2 in the 444-seat Foster Family Theater. No tickets had been sold to the 10performances.

"It is disappointing but not the end of the world," said YES director Melanee Wyatt, who has rescheduled the production to Aug. 10-24 at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock. "What is most important is that the kids have the YES Company experience."

Dave Pier, the center's executive director, said no other scheduled events, including Townsend Opera Players' Sept. 16 concert in the Foster theater, will be canceled. About 130 people have bought $25 tickets to the opera gala.

Pier said he thought the center would be cleared for occupancy by mid-August, but he now thinks there is a chance the center might not obtain required permits by that time.

Of particular concern is the elevator permit, said Fred Silva, chairman of the Gallo center board. The date for elevator inspection was too close for comfort to the YES Company performances. The center tried to reschedule but said it has had trouble lining up a state inspector.

Patty Hill Thomas, Stanislaus County's chief financial officer and the center's project manager, said the center never should have scheduled the YES Company performance that early in the first place. She said she was unaware of the YES performance dates, though they had been scheduled for months and were included in the center's spring newsletter.

"I don't know what was said, what was planned and what wasn't planned," she said, explaining that she was focused on construction.

Hill Thomas said construction crews are "on track for what we thought our track was" and are set to continue work through late August and possibly until early September.

The arts center still will offer public tours at the Modesto Art & Wine Festival on Aug. 18, but visitors will have to wear hard hats and be accompanied by a guide. More public tours will be offered Sept.10, the new date of the ribbon cutting, which had been scheduled for Sept. 25. The Sept. 27 grand opening gala in the Foster theater and the 1,251-seat Mary Stuart Rogers Theater is still a go.

Because Wyatt thought "Seussical" was going to be staged at the Gallo center, she included a broader spectrum of students than usual. Instead of middle school through high school students as in the past, the show will include children as young as first-graders, as well as high school graduates. About 80young people will participate in the musical, which is based on the Dr. Seuss books.

Wyatt said she is not angry about the Gallo cancellation and understands that delays in construction are to be expected.

"You wouldn't want to open a facility that isn't safe," she said, adding she is just happy Modesto will get an arts center. "We want to make sure everybody is safe."

Pier said the center has scheduled YES Company for August 2008.

"We remain very supportive of YES, as they are such an important part of the arts in this community," he said.

Erika Townsend, an administrator at Townsend Opera Players, said she is confident that the center will present the rest of its events on schedule. TOP is planning a fund-raiser at the center Sept. 15, the day before its opera concert.

Paul Jan Zdunek, president and chief executive of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, said that, as far as he knows, the orchestra will be in the center for a sound check by the end of August. He said he is not concerned about the delay in the center's completion.

"I figured they would be late," he said. "All construction projects, no matter what, get delayed."

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at 578-2313 or lmillegan@modbee.com.

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