Trees have leaves. Leaves have a shelf life. Once a year, they drop to the lawn and are blown away by gusts of wind or neighbors' noisy leaf-blowers.
During this time of arboreal mayhem, schools open their doors and invite eager young scholars in from the leaf-covered world. When such students are scholars of theater, the boisterous, colorful drama of autumn gets a chance to play out on the stage, where the opportunity for life-changing theater can make for some sensational entertainment for us, the eager audience.
This fall, at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, the College of Marin, and Napa Valley College, a vibrant blend of classic and original plays is planned for the next few months—and the yearly change of seasons appears as a character or background in several of these shows.
At SSU, the theater department kicks things off with playwright Melanie Marnich's moving and funny Blur (Oct. 17–21). Directed by Jennifer King (hopping over from Napa Valley College, where she'll be directing Preston Lane and Jonathan Moscone's Christmas Carol in December), Blur is the comedic drama of a young woman in the summer of her life who discovers she is rapidly going blind. Then, beginning on Halloween, August Strindberg's fanciful Ghost Sonata (Oct. 31–Nov. 9), directed by Judy Navas, gets the Tim Burton treatment in a production filled with eerie projections and shadow effects designed to surround and envelope the audience.
In a fascinating collaboration between the theater, dance and science departments, SSU will present the succinctly titled Soundscape Project (Nov. 21–24), which uses dance, music and recorded sound to explore the inner world and changing seasons within SSU's various Sonoma County nature preserves.
Over at Santa Rosa Junior College, director John Shillington helms Lisa Loomer's intensely insightful drama Distracted (Oct. 4–13), about parents coping with their son's game-changing diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, and their attempts to tame his escalating outrageous behavior. Following it is the epic musical Les Miserables (Nov. 22–Dec. 8), directed by Laura Downing-Lee.
It's classic time at Kentfield's College of Marin, where W. Allen Taylor leads students through Tennessee Williams' primal exploration of emotional frailty and deception, A Streetcar Named Desire (Oct. 4–20), followed by director Lisa Morse's summery staging of Oscar Wilde's ever-sunny Importance of Being Earnest (Dec. 6–15).
Whatever your artistic inclination, there's plenty of action on the college stages of the North Bay this fall. Enough, even, to inspire one to take a break from raking leaves.