After the Denair Gaslight Community Conservatory announced in late September it was in danger of closing, the local community stepped up to save the theater and all it offers.
The Gaslight Theater will continue to foster theater, music and dancing opportunities in the Denair community through a variety of upcoming events and programs — a successful reopening that many were unsure could happen. After the pandemic decimated the GCC Board, with many members moving away or stepping aside, the organization was at risk of closing and in dire need of new volunteers to take charge.
Following an October story in the Journal and social media posts by former GCC Board President Katie Mullany, word quickly spread of the theater’s need and many were eager to help. Now, eight new Board members have joined Mullany and are charging forward into a new era of Gaslight entertainment.
“We had a lot of people calling after the story was published, and that was such a huge help. Some of the new people are members who have been involved with the Gaslight Theater over the years, and others are brand new to Denair and excited to be a part of something in the community,” Mullany said. “They have really stepped up and each person has brought a lot to the theater already. We’re just excited to get everything going and to bring in fresh blood who have new ideas.”
One new member with plenty of ideas is new GCC Board President Chris Ingle, a Winton resident who began acting in Gaslight Theater productions a few years ago. He saw the news in the Journal that the beloved Denair organization could close without new volunteers and jumped into action.
“I knew right away that I absolutely wanted to step up. I’ve always had a vision for this place and I’m a big fan of the experiences it provides for the community,” Ingle said. “It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be, but in the best way…This is a labor of love, and it’s because we love this theater. It’s impacted all of our lives in one way or another, so doing this helps us give back to that part of the process that made it so magical for us when we first came here.”
Ingle said he can’t wait to provide youth programs once again, like theater and dance classes, and hopes that the Gaslight Theater can be for Denair what locations like the Gallo Center and Playhouse Merced have become for their communities: a reliable gathering center for those in search of quality entertainment and arts.
Already, the Gaslight Theater is well on its way to a post-pandemic resurgence. Actors provided a free holiday production during Denair’s tree lighting ceremony and a free family movie matinee took place with a showing of “Ernest Saves Christmas.”
Theater and dance classes are also set to return to the Gaslight Theater in late winter or early spring, though the organization is still in search of instructors. Currently, yoga and chair yoga classes are offered at the theater.
“It's all about giving back to the community and letting them know we're here for them,” Ingle said. “Hopefully they will come back and we can connect together, and we can start to see Gaslight as the center of this community again.”
For Mullany, the response to GCC’s public plea shows just how much the arts mean to many people.
“It's a huge relief that we were able to stay open, because nobody wanted to see it close,” she said. “People are very excited to see growth again, so it’s really fun to watch all of these new people come in and get really excited and animated about making it work.”
The Denair Gaslight Theater is located at 3908 N. Gratton Rd. To stay up to date with events and programs, visit www.denairgaslight.com. Those who would like to volunteer can contact the theater at 209-424-1601.