The Sea Ranch Thespians are dedicated to bringing the most professional productions possible to the barn theatre. The Thespians challenge themselves and the audiences and "raise the bar" with each production. “Challenge” may be an understatement: computer-controlled lighting and sound, professional curtains, elegant flooring, a dedicated and extremely skilled stage/set construction crew as well as a dedicated and extremely skilled lighting and sound crew are all part of the productions. The equipment is equal to or better than many professional theatres.
The Sea Ranch Thespians began in 1998, with “Murder at Rutherford House”. Our 42nd production, "Winter" was performed in September 2018. All of this is done with volunteers – over a hundred names appear in each program. Acting talent comes from the local community and beyond – retired professionals as well as “I have never been on stage, but would like to” actors have joined the Thespians and the directors are skilled in working with all. Local artists have volunteered their skills to do set design, paint special backdrops, create program and poster designs, and design and maintain this web site. The enthusiasm is catching.
The Knipp-Stengel barn was built in 1880 out of redwood from the near-by hills. Its size allows a stage to be erected in a variety of sizes, levels and locations. The acoustics are wonderful – no doubt appreciated by the animals who were the original residents. A group of volunteers, The Barn Crew, spent over ten years doing a structural renovation and then became skilled in theatre set building.
After each production, the stage, audience risers, curtains and all the various props are taken down, stored or returned and the barn becomes a barn again.
The performances are free - a gift to the community from Carol Emory and John Wingate (now via The Wingate Foundation).
The Sea Ranch Thespians is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and relies on donations to finance its productions.
If you would like to help support future Thespian productions, please send your contribution to The Sea Ranch Thespians, Box 149, The Sea Ranch, CA 95497
The Sea Ranch Thespians call a century-old barn their playhouse. Built around 1880 by German immigrants, the completely restored Knipp-Stengel Ranch barn overlooks the Pacific Ocean on Highway One. At 160 feet long by 60 feet wide, this imposing landmark dominates the landscape in the center of The Sea Ranch. The structural renovation of the barn was accomplished entirely through volunteer labor, and the building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.
For Thespian productions, the unobstructed interior of the barn allows a moveable stage to be erected in a variety of sizes and levels. Professional stage lighting is fully computerized, as is the digital sound system. Volunteers design and create elaborate sets for each new production. Audience seating capacity is intentionally limited to keep all seats in close proximity to the stage.
The Sea Ranch Thespians enjoy a revolving cast of artistic directors. For information on who will be directing the next production, view the Next Production section.
Although Katie Atherton’s professional life was spent as a psychotherapist, her involvement in theater originated in her childhood. Her mother was a speech and drama teacher, her brother an actor and director and her sister a professional story teller. Besides training and performance as a young woman, Katie eventually took professional theater training with South Coast Repertory and performed onstage in Orange County. As the regional director of a Children’s Values program while raising her family, she directed children of all ages in various productions. However, she did not return to the stage herself until moving to Sea Ranch in 2004, where she performed in several plays, including The Dining Room, Lemonade, Love Letters, Spoon River Anthology, Sylvia, Seascape, The Rainmaker, Copenhagen, Love, Loss and What I Wore, Wittenberg and Belles:The Reunion. She made her first North Coast foray into directing with the radio show, It’s a Wonderful Life, performed at Gualala Arts, and directed the play, Winter, for Sea Ranch Thespians in fall of 2017. She is pleased to be exploring the application of her psychological understandings from her years of professional practice to the art of directing for The Sea RanchThespians.
Lynne co-founded Art Center Theater in 2003, where she acted and directed until stepping down as co-chair of the theatrical program in 2014. She directed over 25 productions for Gualala Arts including such shows as Music Man, Honk, Oliver, Annie, Beauty and the Beast, Wizard of Oz, Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, and Diary of Anne Frank. Her last directorial effort for GAC was Enchanted April. She has directed five shows for The Sea Ranch Thespians: Anastasia, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Miracle Worker, For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again and Dry Powder. Lynne enjoys acting – her favorite roles on the Mendonoma Coast have been in Steel Magnolias, Little Foxes, Love – Loss and What I Wore, Lettice and Lovage, Spoon River, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Cemetery Club, 2 Across, Odd Couple – Female Version, 2 Across, The Dixie Swim Club and Belles: The Reunion. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Theater/Communications. Has taught acting, directing, reader’s theater and oral interpretation on the High School and the University Levels. Additionally, she has worked in film and television. Lynne enjoys “live” theater the most – for the thrill of creating for and with a live audience.
Diane graduated from the University of Utah with a theatre major. Following graduation, she taught speech and drama for several years and appeared as co-host on a weekly TV talent show in the early days of live commercial television. Then followed a move to Los Angeles where she appeared in experimental television productions for the U.S. Air Force. She later resided in Hawaii for 16 years, appearing in many community theatre productions, several movies, and live TV appearances on game shows and in commercials. Diane returned to Southern California where she continued her involvement in acting, directing, and producing community theatre productions before establishing residence at The Sea Ranch. Diane directed the first sixteen Thespian plays and appeared in "Dear Master" and "Beyond Reasonable Doubt". She then directed four additional plays for a total of twenty for the Thespians
Kathye was a co-founder of the Gualala Arts Center Theatre and worked with them as producer, director, or set designer on over 25 productions from 2003 to 2014. Before moving to the coast, she earned a Master’s degree in theatre from the University of North Texas and did extensive work in the Dallas area in theatre and film. Local directing credits include Belles: The Reunion; Quartet; The Dixie Swim Club; 2 Across; Love, Loss, and What I Wore; Seascape; and Guilty Conscience for the Thespians and The Cemetery Club and Steel Magnolias for Gualala Arts. Favorite local roles include The Miracle Worker; Same Time, Next Year; Rehearsal for Murder; and The Foreigner at the Sea Ranch and Enchanted April; The Little Foxes; The Ladies of the Camellias; and Park Your Car in Harvard Yard at Gualala Arts. Kathye also taught acting for Santa Rosa Junior College.
Brian is a transplant from Paradise CA. He has been involved in community theater for the past 40 years both on stage and behind the scenes. He has performed in numerous productions from musicals to ballets. His favorite role to date is Edna from Hairspray. In 2003 he founded and opened Chico Theater Company where he was the Artistic Director. After stepping down, to raise his sons, he continued to direct both adult and children’s theater productions through different venues. His latest endeavor was bringing theater to the school where he was principal. He exposed his students to many facets of theater through musicals which included Oliver, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, Peter Pan and an original work, The Doll Collection. He is very excited about his future with The Sea Ranch Thespians.
Karen has spent her life working in theater arts. After discovering the joys of storytelling, singing and dancing as a child, she taught theater arts, directed community theater, managed a children’s theatre and never stopped performing. When she and her husband retired to Sea Ranch she found The Sea Ranch Thespians and Gualala Arts where she has directed and performed regularly.Audiences may remember The Dining Room, Spoon River Anthology, and Same Time, Next Year under her direction at the White Barn.
Jeri has had extensive experience in theatre as an actress, director, and teacher of acting. She had a career in television as a writer, director, and producer, with credits on such shows as the "Star Trek" franchise, "Magnum, P.I.", "In the Heat of the Night", and "Quincy, M.E.". As part of the Thespians, she has been seen in "Belles: The Reunion", "Winter", "The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again", "Dixie Swim Club", "Three Viewings", “Anastasia”, “Honour”, "Spoon River Anthology", "The Dining Room", "My Old Lady", "Beyond Reasonable Doubt", "Lettice and Loveage", "Sight Unseen", "The Supporting Cast" and "The Foreigner". Jeri directed two one-act plays, “Lemonade” and “The Autograph Hound”, and five full-length dramas, "Love Letters", "The Rainmaker", "Copenhagen", "A Question of Words", and "Wittenberg". She was co-director of "Three Viewings".
Bryn Elizan Harris
A PAHS 2000 alumna, Bryn studied performing arts at SRJC, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she received a BFA cum laude in Directing in 2010. Her professional career as a performer and/or as choreographer/director has taken her from the Bay Area, to the Central Coast, to New York City, Portland and Ashland, Oregon and on tour in the Southern U.S. Upon her return to the Mendonoma Coast, she has performed, choreographed, directed and produced as a Co-Founder for Broken Anchor Collective, with Arts Center Theater, The Arena Theater and Sea Ranch Thespians. Bryn was seen onstage in the Thespian’s Three Viewings, co-directing with Jeri Taylor. She was also co-director, set and lighting designer and performed the memorable Schmendiman for the Successful Steve Martin comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile, at the Arena Theater. Bryn directed Death by Design for the Thespians in April 2014.
Carol Emory, co-sponsor
Carol has a family history of theatre involvement. Her grandmother taught drama at the University of Wyoming for 24 years, her sister was a writer and actress and her nephew is an actor. Carol was involved in high school drama, but did not appear on stage again until she substituted for another actress in “Murder at Rutherford House”. Carol immerses herself in all the logistics of bringing a play to life – script reading, set construction, backstage, onstage (and occasionally under the stage), working with different directors and with the many people who contribute their many talents to making the Thespians as professional as possible.
John Wingate (1928-2012), co-sponsor
John's background was in mechanical and electrical engineering which he used in years of contracting, manufacturing and small business ownership. John provided our barn/theatre with equipment equal to or better than many professional theatres - computer-controlled lighting, sound and projection. He provided tools and supplies for set building as well as electrical upgrades to the barn systems. Ten years of working with the very dedicated barn crew on the rehab of the barn gave John an intimate knowledge of the structure, including the electrical and mechanical systems.
The performances are free - a gift to the community from Carol Emory and John Wingate (now via The Wingate Foundation).
The Sea Ranch Thespian's fall production of "Other Desert Cities" by Jon Robin Baitz has been postponed tentatively until September 23-26 and 30 and October 1 to 3, 2021. The show is directed by Katie Atherton, and features Lynne Atkins, Mark Erickson, Jeri Taylor, Molly Morgan, and John Carlson.
The story revolves around a family living in Palm Springs who reunites for the holidays and finds more surprises than just those around the Christmas tree. It is a tense family drama that highlights political differences and long-held family secrets.
Rehearsals had just begun in March of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic shelter-in-place order came down. In June 2020, with guidance from Frank Bell, the Thespian Board of Directors voted unanimously to bring the play to life tentatively in September 2021. Frank wisely suggested that we error on the side of safety for ourselves and our audience members.
"Other Desert Cities"
Brooke Wyeth returns home to Palm Springs after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas with her parents, her brother, and her aunt. Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family's history - a wound they don't want reopened. In effect, she draws a line in the sand and dares them all to cross it.
"The most richly enjoyable new play for grown-ups that New York has known in many seasons ... In his most fully realized play to date, Mr. Baitz makes sure our sympathies keep shifting among the members of the wounded family portrayed here. Every one of them emerges as selfish, loving, cruel, compassionate, irritating, charming and just possibly heroic ... leaves you feeling both moved and gratifyingly sated."
The New York Times
Directed by Brian Holderman
"Heavenly Committee Plans Christmas"