Enchanted Playhouse holds first performance since state shutdown

The theater company returns in June with an outdoor performance of The Reluctant Dragon

VISALIA – June 10 will mark a return to live performances for the Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company (EPTC), Visalia’s dedicated children’s theater, after more than a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic. The company will present The Reluctant Dragon.

The Reluctant Dragon is based on the children’s book of the same name by Kenneth Grahame. “It is about one of the last dragons, and he lives outside in his cave outside the village,” EPTC board president Shanna Meier said. “The village finds out he’s there, they get scared, they hire a knight to come fight him, but a little boy befriends the dragon and finds out he’s a nice dragon.”

In keeping with state guidelines, each performance is limited to 150 seats and will be held outdoors. The Visalia Breakfast Rotary sponsored the show, and Grace Lutheran Church donated its grounds for the performances.

“We’re hoping for a good turnout,” Meier said. “So far we’re probably close to 50 tickets.”

The EPTC has faced an uphill battle over the past few years. In 2018, the theater company lost its performance home after the Main Street Theater in downtown Visalia was sold to developers. EPTC found a new home at Visalia’s Fox Theatre, but state-mandated shutdowns due to the pandemic forced the theater to scrap the remainder of its planned performances for the 2020-2021 season.

In April of this year, after receiving permission from the health department, the company was able to return to in-person rehearsals at Grace Lutheran Church. The cast and crew are thrilled to be back. “Oh, they are all just ecstatic to be performing again and actually be able to rehearse in person,” Meier said.

“It’s just amazing to see the positive impacts that just being in person can have on people.”

Being able to hold performances again is not only important to the cast and crew but crucial for the survival of the company. EPTC planned to perform Snow White in February and Treasure Island in April but couldn’t due to restrictions. Without performances to generate income, the nonprofit could have gone under.

The company managed to weather the past year through individual donations, Facebook fundraisers, and a COVID-19-related relief grant from the state. Without it, Meier said, “This would not be possible.” Even small donations make a huge difference, she said.

Traditionally, EPTC invites area schools to come to performances on field trips during the day and then offers evening performances that are open to the community. Meier hopes to return to that format in October. They will still be outdoors, but the company is working on securing a larger venue. The company might announce that location in the coming weeks, Meier said.

Meier also looks forward to performing at the Fox Theater again. “So, we’re hoping maybe by spring of 2022 we can reopen there with schools and all of that,” Meier said. “We’ve been in talks with them. We’ve told them we want to stay, as soon as we can get there. They want us back.”

Until then, theater-goers can see the EPTC players perform The Reluctant Dragon on June 10 or 11 at 7 p.m. or June 12 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at enchantedplayhouse.org, at the event, or by calling 559-972-7027. Anyone who wants to donate to EPTC can do so by visiting the company’s website or their Facebook page.

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