In early 1999 there was a void in Mammoth Lakes’ theatrical scene. After a long run, High Sierra Musical Theater had shut down, ending its tenure as the town’s premiere performing arts company. Kristin Reese, who had been on HSMT’s Board of Directors, wanted to fill this void. She approached Kim Stoiber and Lesley Bruns about starting a new theater company, and they were both eager to become involved.
During their first meeting, they discussed the fact that Mammoth had never had a theater group which produced plays - the focus had always been on musicals. And while the trio was keen to begin work on a production, they had no funds. They realized that by choosing classic plays written by authors such as Shakespeare, they could produce shows without having to pay royalty or licensing fees – and at the same time, bring a different style of drama to the Eastern Sierra. They decided to launch the company with a production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Their original mission was “to enhance the Eastern Sierra’s cultural diversity by providing our community with quality performances of renowned plays while striving to improve upon our talents.” Sierra Classic Theatre was born.
But first, Kristin, Kim and Lesley had some important tasks at hand. Determined to do things right from the beginning, they produced By-Laws, obtained insurance and incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization – with generous volunteer assistance from some local theater lovers. After assembling a core group of talented resident thespians, they whet their acting chops by performing a series of Shakespearean scenes at “Art a la Carte”, an outdoor food, wine and arts event produced by Mono Council for the Arts, under the direction of Tony Barrett.
Their next priority was to raise funds to produce “Twelfth Night.” They decided to create a Murder Mystery Fundraising Dinner, and with the help of Chef Frederic Pierrel (who was then at Lakefront Restaurant), the inaugural offering of this now annual event opened on Nov. 10, 1999.
It was nine months from the time that Twelfth Night was cast and rehearsals began to its opening night in February 2000 – and it seemed like giving birth. Many of the original cast and board members are still SCT actors, volunteers and supporters, including B. Kenji Kawaguchi, Stacy Corless, and Marlene Piper.
The original founders sought to establish a company that was creatively courageous, fiscally responsible and that fostered new friendships. In fact, there have been three Sierra Classic Theatre marriages and three SCT babies! As the company moves toward the future, Kristin, Kim and Lesley are proud of the organization they helped create and very appreciative of the dedicated and talented volunteers who are now charting Sierra Classic Theatre’s course.