News

After 91 seasons, Palo Alto Players still packs a full house

Actors from left, Mary Melnick, Melissa Jones and Maria Mikheyenko star in Palo Alto Players' "Men on Boats, which was performed in February 2022. Courtesy Scott Lasky/Palo Alto Players.

Many things in Silicon Valley are older than Silicon Valley itself, but a theater company with that claim is pretty unusual. Rarer still is a local theater company in its 91st season, and the Palo Alto Players have not only marked that milestone but have also just announced the lineup for the company's 92nd season.

"We're the longest running community theater in Silicon Valley. I always like to say that before Silicon Valley, there was Palo Alto Players," said Elizabeth Santana, the company's managing director.

She has a point: The Palo Alto Players were founded in 1931, and William R. Hewlett and David Packard didn't start work in the valley's now most-famous garage, often called the birthplace of Silicon Valley, until the late 1930s.

In fact, the HP Garage is less than a mile from the Players' permanent home at 1305 Middlefield Road, where the company moved in 1933 and has performed ever since. Company patron Lucie Stern donated funds to build a theater and community center, which has since been named for her.

The new digs made a big difference, since the Palo Alto Community House, the Players' first performance space, was close enough to the train station that the action on stage had to pause whenever a train went by, according to company history that Santana shared.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

The Players marked their 90th anniversary in 2021 mid-pandemic, an echo of the tough times that spurred the company's founding, Santana noted.

"The organization was started by a group of residents of Palo Alto who came together at another really challenging time in our history, during the Great Depression. They recognized the need to lift the community's spirits and to do that through the arts," she said.

The company celebrated the milestone anniversary last year with a hybrid gala, livestreamed and held in person for a limited-capacity crowd.

The past couple years saw the company, like most arts groups, move its programming online for the bulk of 2020 and 2021, with the return of in-person shows for the 2021-22 season. The company is now back to presenting in-person shows but is still offering a livestreaming option.

Over the years, the company has staged a variety of plays and musicals, including many now-classics when they were new, such Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's "You Can't Take it With You." The company's programming in recent years has focused on a combination of new works and classics.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

In its time, the Players' stage also has featured some well-known talents, including Danny Glover, Jack Palance and screenwriter Waldo Salt ("Midnight Cowboy").

Santana attributes the company's longevity to its being part of the community — and to the support of local audiences.

'The organization was started by a group of residents of Palo Alto. ... They recognized the need to lift the community's spirits and to do that through the arts.'

-Elizabeth Santana, managing director, Palo Alto Players

"There's a sense of community. There's something really special about being able to come and see the people that live or work in your neighborhood on the stage or behind the scenes — and I think the artistic quality, to be able to see high-quality performing arts, right here in your backyard."

On April 1, the company announced its 92nd season, which kicks off in August with "School of Rock: The Musical" and includes "Beauty and the Beast" and the behind-the-scenes comedy "The Play That Goes Wrong."

In honor of the group's decades of local service, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and Palo Alto Weekly are giving Palo Alto Players an outstanding nonprofit Tall Trees award this year. An award ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, April 21.

"Over the last two years, to see our patrons really step forward in support of us has, has just been kind of overwhelming at times. To be given this kind of recognition, to be honored with a Tall Tree Award as we are emerging from the impacts of the pandemic — to recognize that there is value in the arts, and the arts are essential to our city's vitality — is incredibly meaningful," Santana said.

Read more stories on the 2020 and 2022 Tall Tree Award honorees:

Dr. Sara Cody: Making the tough decisions

Dr. Yvonne "Bonnie" Maldonado: 'Constantly adapting'

Cammie Vail: Paying it forward

Pastor Paul Bains: 'Hope' for the unhoused

Hal Mickelson: Steering the future of Palo Alto's past

Roger Smith: Finding justice for murder victims' families

Peninsula Open Space Trust: Committed to conservation

Premier Properties: Taking care of businesses

Homewood Suites: Opening it doors to nonprofits, people in need

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now
Heather Zimmerman has been with Embarcadero Media since 2019. She writes and edits arts stories, compiles the Weekend Express newsletter, curates the community calendar, helps edit stories for the Voice and The Almanac and assists with assembling the Express newsletters for those publications. Read more >>

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

After 91 seasons, Palo Alto Players still packs a full house

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Apr 15, 2022, 7:00 am

Many things in Silicon Valley are older than Silicon Valley itself, but a theater company with that claim is pretty unusual. Rarer still is a local theater company in its 91st season, and the Palo Alto Players have not only marked that milestone but have also just announced the lineup for the company's 92nd season.

"We're the longest running community theater in Silicon Valley. I always like to say that before Silicon Valley, there was Palo Alto Players," said Elizabeth Santana, the company's managing director.

She has a point: The Palo Alto Players were founded in 1931, and William R. Hewlett and David Packard didn't start work in the valley's now most-famous garage, often called the birthplace of Silicon Valley, until the late 1930s.

In fact, the HP Garage is less than a mile from the Players' permanent home at 1305 Middlefield Road, where the company moved in 1933 and has performed ever since. Company patron Lucie Stern donated funds to build a theater and community center, which has since been named for her.

The new digs made a big difference, since the Palo Alto Community House, the Players' first performance space, was close enough to the train station that the action on stage had to pause whenever a train went by, according to company history that Santana shared.

The Players marked their 90th anniversary in 2021 mid-pandemic, an echo of the tough times that spurred the company's founding, Santana noted.

"The organization was started by a group of residents of Palo Alto who came together at another really challenging time in our history, during the Great Depression. They recognized the need to lift the community's spirits and to do that through the arts," she said.

The company celebrated the milestone anniversary last year with a hybrid gala, livestreamed and held in person for a limited-capacity crowd.

The past couple years saw the company, like most arts groups, move its programming online for the bulk of 2020 and 2021, with the return of in-person shows for the 2021-22 season. The company is now back to presenting in-person shows but is still offering a livestreaming option.

Over the years, the company has staged a variety of plays and musicals, including many now-classics when they were new, such Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's "You Can't Take it With You." The company's programming in recent years has focused on a combination of new works and classics.

In its time, the Players' stage also has featured some well-known talents, including Danny Glover, Jack Palance and screenwriter Waldo Salt ("Midnight Cowboy").

Santana attributes the company's longevity to its being part of the community — and to the support of local audiences.

"There's a sense of community. There's something really special about being able to come and see the people that live or work in your neighborhood on the stage or behind the scenes — and I think the artistic quality, to be able to see high-quality performing arts, right here in your backyard."

On April 1, the company announced its 92nd season, which kicks off in August with "School of Rock: The Musical" and includes "Beauty and the Beast" and the behind-the-scenes comedy "The Play That Goes Wrong."

In honor of the group's decades of local service, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and Palo Alto Weekly are giving Palo Alto Players an outstanding nonprofit Tall Trees award this year. An award ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, April 21.

"Over the last two years, to see our patrons really step forward in support of us has, has just been kind of overwhelming at times. To be given this kind of recognition, to be honored with a Tall Tree Award as we are emerging from the impacts of the pandemic — to recognize that there is value in the arts, and the arts are essential to our city's vitality — is incredibly meaningful," Santana said.

Read more stories on the 2020 and 2022 Tall Tree Award honorees:

Dr. Sara Cody: Making the tough decisions

Dr. Yvonne "Bonnie" Maldonado: 'Constantly adapting'

Cammie Vail: Paying it forward

Pastor Paul Bains: 'Hope' for the unhoused

Hal Mickelson: Steering the future of Palo Alto's past

Roger Smith: Finding justice for murder victims' families

Peninsula Open Space Trust: Committed to conservation

Premier Properties: Taking care of businesses

Homewood Suites: Opening it doors to nonprofits, people in need

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.