May brings the first productions by Prescott Valley Performing Arts and Children’s Theatre in the company’s brand-new, purpose-built facility adjacent to the Findlay Toyota Center. This labor of love, in the making for nearly two decades, is the pride and joy of a community of volunteers built around the vision of Clyde Neville.
I visited while the company was setting up for a Sunday church service with worship-music concert and building sets for both Gilligan’s Island The Musical and A Doll’s House, a two-show one-act version of the classic Henrik Ibsen play adapted and produced entirely by the company’s youth contingent, led by Thomas Hinschak.
Well known in the arts community for his can-do spirit, relentless positivity and good humor, Clyde set out with no backing, no land and not much interest among prospective sponsors to build a family-friendly community theatre.
“We were a gypsy theatre in different locations that we could use or rent, and every couple of years I’d go to the Fains and say I need a piece of property to build on. Then finally about four years ago they called me saying, ‘we want to talk to you,’ so I went in and they gave me three different locations and asked, ‘which one do you want for the theatre?’ and I said ‘the one next to the events center!’ They donated this land for a dollar a year for 20 years.”
As the company was building experience “they’ve been really supportive of us, too,” adds Executive Director Rebecca Riffle-Bakody, who started with the company about ten years ago as a cast mom just looking to help out. “We used a (Fain-owned) space over by Harkins Theater for two years, they just let us use it till they needed to rent it out.”
Drawing on his decades of local contacts and favors done in local commercial construction, Clyde marshaled a small army of contractors and professionals donating time and expertise, as well as gifts of materials from multiple Home Depot outlets and grant funding. “We’ll have a little under 20,000 volunteer hours in this when it’s fully realized,” says Clyde.
With so much time put into imagining the theatre over the years, it should be no surprise that the result is audience-friendly and sensibly designed from the technical standpoint. In the elegantly appointed house the 150-220 seats are wide and comfy, the rows spaced wide enough to easily walk to your seat. Chairs and risers can be rearranged for any kind of presentation. Sight lines are open, there are no bad seats, the restrooms are roomy and near at hand. The stage and support facilities are simple but flexible and large enough to accommodate a big cast.
The company is visibly excited about the opening. “We’ve been dark for two years,” says Rebecca, providing space to focus on construction of the facility, but frustrating the players who’ve come to rely on the creativity and camaraderie of regular rehearsal and performance. “This is a place where kids can go and be themselves.”
The company is preparing summer kids’ and youth programs, has booked its fall schedule and is building out the spring with family-friendly shows.
Clyde fairly bursts with pride in the achievements of his company, and is already planning further expansion. The theatre is “my vision come true, thanks to people who have seen the vision, chimed in and moved forward with it,” he says. But he’s always quick to bring the focus back to his first priority: “It’s about the kids.”
Gilligan’s Island The Musical opens May 13 and will run for the three weekends to the 28th. Visit PVPerformingArts.org for info on tickets and showtimes.