I would bet that Debbie Baumann, Barbara Nemko, Patricia Giusti Quinn and June Alane Reif — founding members of Napa’s newest theater venture, the Valley Players — have read Marsha Sinetar’s popular 1989 book, “Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow.”
Throughout the text, Sinetar provides a step-by-step guide to discovering work that fits one’s talents, passions and needs. Those of us who chose professions in the nonprofit arts often cite the book as our inspiration and raison d’ être.
With no expectation of financial reward, these four energetic, talented ladies —all former actresses with Dreamweavers Theatre — are keeping their professional day jobs while collaborating on producing plays in their spare time. “By day I’m a geek,” said Reif, a web application developer, “but by night, I’m an artist.”
Valley Players’ first offering premiered last week with both the play, Harold Pinter’s 1962 work, “The Lover,” and audience using the ample stage of Lincoln Theater. Featuring Reif and fellow thespian Richard Pallaziol, this quirky, one-act about “modern marriage” was performed with panache and assurance. If this is any indication of what’s in store for Napa Valley audiences, we’re in good stead for more quality theater choices in our midst.
I recently spoke with Reif about the genesis of and plan for this fledgling artistic endeavor.
“We wanted to start out with a small group,” Reif said, “as it can be hard to make decisions with a larger group. We wanted to get everything organized and then open the door. Funding-wise, we’re pooling our resources, splitting the costs and hoping we can make some of our money back.”
The mission of the community-based Valley Players is to produce quality plays from both classic and contemporary canons, with a focus on providing roles for women over age 40 and audiences over age 50.
“We’re thinking of more mature audiences and honestly, we are looking for characters of a more mature age in general,” Reif said. “There are not that many roles for women over a certain age, and we’re hoping to be able to bring a more female-centric kind of thing. That doesn’t mean we’re excluding anyone.”
Reif envisions two more plays this year and, “as the group grows, it will be easier to orchestrate producing additional works,” she said. “While we want to welcome in other members of the community, we don’t have our own facility. Because we don’t have that budget overhead, we can be a little more flexible in our play choices, and we do want to be able to take a chance now and then on something.”
Reif is reading plays by Noel Coward, Sarah Ruhl and Paula Vogel with play decisions made collaboratively by the group. In May, Valley Players will produce the widely-praised “Anton in Show Business” by Jane Martin, also taking place at the Lincoln Theater with plans to tour to Vallejo’s Bay Area Stage and then back to Lucky Penny.
“Anton” will include seven actresses, and on board to direct is Megan Palagi. Audition information can be found on the Valley Players Facebook page.
There’s something that feels just right about Valley Players. The night I saw the play, nearly every one of the 60-plus seats was filled. And, as living in Napa Valley goes, there were many familiar faces in the mix. The play ran on three weeknights, began at 7 p.m., and was just over an hour with no intermission.
But what I love most about my experience was making a new friend named Cecille Brown who sat in the middle of the first row, right next to me. Her French accent was charming, and she told me she goes out often and enjoys the arts on a regular basis.
Both of us were doing exactly what we loved!