The Seeing Place
06/25/2014 12:00AM ● Published by Gary VanDeWalker
The New Frontier Theatre Company in Siskiyou County
The word “theatre” comes from the Greek word meaning “the seeing place.” For Bennett Gale, it comes from the perspective of playing Ringo Starr in Beatlemania on Broadway, both on the professional stage of Los Angeles theatre and now in the vision he presents for the New Frontier Theatre Company in Siskiyou County.
After years of working in professional theatre and teaching drama in public schools, Gale moved to Northern California and viewed the grandeur and majesty of the surrounding mountains. Seeing within the community the ability to host a world-class theatre company and complex, he began to wonder of the possibilities. “Four million cars pass through this county every year,” Gale says. “This area is a frontier, with theatre promising something new, fresh and special.”
Approaching fellow actors Bill Counts and Sandra Winslow, the three talents began to weave the dreams into a viable reality. “Theatre has its own magic. Here I can envision a theatre company bringing economic viability, as well as a gateway to drawing the area’s talent into an activity that will change them,” Gale says. Attracting the talent of the small communities in the county, the trio put together a company which at present represents 140 cumulative years of theatre experience.
New Frontier is beginning the second year of this journey. Part of the Siskiyou Art Council, the troupe produced three shows and one workshop and ended fiscally in the black its first season. The second season has its sights set on four productions. First comes the mid-summer presentation of “Greater Tuna,” a comedy exploring the lives and morals which are found in small towns. The play continues through July, performing in Etna, Yreka, Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir. At the end of August, the company is producing Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” with three weekend performances at College of the Siskiyous. Then fall rehearsals prepare for the holiday season with the a Radio Theatre production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Gale will bring his own unique talents to reprise last year’s one man show, “Scrooge: An Evening with Charles Dickens,” based on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
As schools face dwindling budgets and cuts to their drama programs, New Frontier is bringing life to small schools, developing the Theatrical Arts Schools Initiative. This effort provides supplemental curriculum and new programs, while providing classes, coaches and assemblies to Golden Eagle Charter School, Butteville Elementary, Weed High School and McCloud High School. Gale says, “Our children have an innate set of skills and curiosity that theatre can enhance and help them appreciate.”
For now, these are small beginnings, which are creating a “seeing place” for a more expansive future. Everyone in the company wears many hats. From acting to licking envelopes, there is an enthusiasm surrounding the task. “The aim is to be here for the community, to see this as community project, engaging people to see what is possible,” Gale says. “I just think of our organizing principle: ‘Imagination is the bridge to reality.’”
July 5 and 6 at the Sisson Museum, Mount Shasta
July 19 at the Avery Theatre, Etna
July 20 at Saint Mark's Preservation Square, Yreka
July 25 and 26 at College of the Siskiyous, Weed
July 27 at the Siskiyou Art Museum, Dunsmuir