Building an arts destination, one company at a time |

Building an arts destination, one company at a time

Is Nevada County the next Ashland, Ore.?

With four new plays opening in the next seven days between Grass Valley and Nevada City, the question has been raised — by those in our ever expanding arts community as well as the public at large. As with visual artists and musicians, our community is a hotbed of theatrical talent that flows between at least six production companies, workshops and independent productions. And that’s not even counting the multiple options for children’s theater.

Ashland is probably best known as host to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The small, rural community boasts a population of 20,255, according to The Ashland Chamber refers to its cultural scene as “Big city arts in a small town package…” on its website.

Sound familiar?

While we do have a wide range of arts and culture to choose from each week, our community differs from Ashland in one important aspect — infrastructure. We don’t have the hotel rooms, stages/venues or audiences (yet) to accommodate a major influx of arts-related tourism.

For now, local residents and visitors to our community can create their own theater-going experience. In the mood for a hilarious musical? Sierra Stages’ production of “Avenue Q” is at the Nevada Theatre through Aug. 3, Thursdays through Sundays. Learn more at

Looking for a good date night comedy? Quest Theaterworks opens “Squabbles” Friday (see Page 14) at its new venue, Oddfellows Lodge in Grass Valley, for only three weekends. In its new space, Quest Theaterworks has given itself the room it needs to produce theater that makes the audience think. For more, go to http://

Want a more intimate experience? Check out Synthetic Unlimited’s production of “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (see Page 9). Its 2013 season offers a unique theater experience with dinner (available for an additional price), pre-show entertainment and edgier productions staged at the Stonehouse in Nevada City. To learn more, go to

Need a feel-good musical comedy? Go to Off Broadstreet Theater in Nevada City. Its reprisal of “Legends To Go” features the return of two local actors who suffered from accidents that kept them out of the spotlight for nearly a year. See Saturday’s Spotlight section in The Union for the full story. For more about Legends, visit The production’s six week run opens Friday.

More inclined to be on stage, as opposed to the audience? CATS will host open auditions for its Spring 2014 production of “Miss Saigon.” See Page 9 for details.

Whether we can become an arts powerhouse attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists a year remains to be seen. What Nevada County does offer is amazing outdoor recreation opportunities, proximity to large metropolitan areas and “big city” arts any tourist or local can appreciate.

If you haven’t already experienced it for yourselves, try to get out and see one or all of these productions. You just may be surprised by what community theater has to offer in this community.

Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at

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