Founded in 1974, The Western Stage (TWS) has evolved over the last four decades into one of the most respected community-based theaters on California’s Central Coast. Supported in part by a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, TWS is committed to enriching the culture of its community by bringing together professional artists, theatre students, and community members to produce a dynamic season of plays that enhances the lives of both the artist and audience; developing new works that speak to the history and culture of the Salinas Valley; and providing educational opportunities to allow students of all skill levels to explore and develop their unique talents.
Theater is a uniquely collaborative and powerful medium for cultural expression. Our theater, The Western Stage, provides a professional platform for our educational mission; a substrate on which our diverse constituencies and the communities of the Salinas Valley can engage and catalyze each other. This synergy yields theater that is Excellent — in its artistic merit, in its production values and in its relevance to our region. Our multiple programs and cultural services are the girders and joists for this vision. They are diverse in strategy yet unified by our primary commitment toward inclusion and broad participation. TWS is firstly a professional theater with an educational mission. We produce an acclaimed subscription season of plays utilizing the local talent pool and professional and pre-professional artists.
TWS and Hartnell College is driven by it’s educational mission and is committed to providing traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities for the communities of the Salinas Valley. We are further committed to offering educational opportunities to the youth of the Salinas area. We collaborate extensively with the schools, offering school tours, student matinees and our own youth program, the Young Company. Another important aspect of our educational programming is our professional internships. These are offered to matriculating and post graduate students who have committed to a career in theater. These programs fill a gap in the available training in the art and craft of theater. TWS challenges emerging artists and technicians with full professional responsibilities, yet in a nurturing environment. In this way, TWS is a stepping-stone toward employment in the professional theaters where similar internships are limited and highly competitive. After becoming full professionals, many of our interns return to TWS to visit, teach, and mentor others. This cycle offers inspiration to our students and helps TWS maintain currency in the professional realm of American Theater.
Yet education and professionalism alone yield but a hollow art, bereft and irrelevant. Theater requires an audience! Therefore, we promote flexibility within our organization so that we can be alert for ways to listen to and collaborate with the rich diversity of our population. TWS strives to serve as a resource to recognize and facilitate community aspirations toward cultural expression. Our partnerships are many and dynamic. Yet, we must bring the cultural entity into closer contact with our communities. We must recognize and nurture that which our community values. We must foster and further community participation. Increasingly we must view the community as our partners and vice versa. Despite the current funding environment, TWS can remain stable through this deepening of community participation in our organization. Our programs, collaborations, and services make TWS a vibrant and integral part of the cultural life of the Salinas Valley. And in all of our efforts, we challenge the participants – audience, cast, crew, — to reach beyond that which they perceived to be their limits. TWS creates theater that inspires all of us to expand our conception of who we are and what we can become.