Stage 3 Theatre Company is no more.
Board members Connie Williams and Jim Jordan told The Union Democrat Friday that the board is dissolving after an unsuccessful two-year search for a new home.
Stage 3 lost its theater on Green Street in 2017 when developer Doug Kennedy bought the building and property around it for construction of what is now known as The Armory, an entertainment venue that was finished but never opened. The property is for sale.
Stage 3 had a 23-year run in Sonora, staging more edgier plays than Sierra Repertory Theatre, which typically offers Broadway and more well-known plays. They complemented one another.
Becky Saunders, managing director at Sierra Rep, said she was sad to see Stage 3 go.
“I’ve been coming to Sierra Rep since 1994 and one of the things I enjoyed the most was going to Stage 3. I was envious of the type of productions they could do. Very unusual, very special.”
Sierra Rep helped Stage 3 raise money in 2018 by giving them the proceeds from the dress rehearsal of a play.
Williams said the Stage 3 board will donate about $10,000 it has left to SRT.
About a dozen sites were considered by Stage 3 for a new home, and many landlords were willing to work with them, but in the end it was beyond their reach financially.
They looked at several downtown Sonora storefronts, churches in Twain Harte and Jamestown, and space at the Sonora Inn. They also considered a partnership with other organizations to turn the old bowling alley downtown into an arts complex. None would have cost less than $300,000 and the bowling alley idea would have been $700,000, Williams said.
“Nothing seemed to work out,” she said.
Marianne Wright, who has owned a business in downtown Sonora for more than 25 years, said Stage 3 brought patrons to town who ended up shopping in downtown stores.
“Lots of people from the Valley. They would browse, ask about places to eat and enjoyed the quality of the theater,” she said. “It’s a loss.”
Stage 3’s last season, 2017-2018, was intended to be a one-year itinerant year with a reduced schedule of plays. One was at Columbia College, the other at Sonora High auditorium. Both were less than ideal.
Jordan said lots of regulars could not make the uphill trek from the parking lot to the Fallon House.
“They knew it and didn’t come,” he said.
The high school space was too big and the performance of “The Underpants” lost the intimacy the Green Street venue had. The third play was cancelled when the woman in the one-woman show was injured.
The theater intended to move back to the Armory but construction took much longer than expected and the board and Kennedy became estranged over the delay and Kennedy’s feelings that he had done a lot to accommodate the theater.
In the intervening years, all the stuff needed to run a theater was given away — prop shop and tools, costumes, lights, sound equipment. Connections Academy, the arts school at Summerville High was one beneficiary. They have some seats, some outdated equipment. But many memories.
“The plays that we put on, as you walked out you talked about what you saw on the stage,” Williams said. “It was eclectic. It had a different feel to it, an artsy appeal.”
“I’m heartbroken,” Jordan said. “It’s like you’ve lost a friend.”
This story has been edited to correct the location of one of Stage 3's last plays.