When the doors to the Turlock Community Theatre opened in 1925, it was first known as the Turlock High School Auditorium and was to become the site of a diverse range of entertainment and community events for over 60 years. Countless community members fondly remember having sung on stage here, danced in a chorus line, appeared in a play, worked as stagehands -- and laughed, cried, or cheered in the audience during many a memorable evening of entertainment. The Theatre opened its doors to the cultural enrichment of the entire community and became a thriving center for performing arts. Among the highlights were live performances by the Von Trapp Family, the Vienna Choir Boys, the San Francisco Ballet, and a host of other distinguished artists. In addition, plays, concerts, and special events were staged throughout the years, and the adults of the area reaped the benefits of a beautiful performing arts venue as thoroughly as their children.
The building, designed by the renowned California architect William Henry Weeks, stood grandly near the center of downtown Turlock, bringing together all ages from the surrounding communities. This ended abruptly, however, when the building was damaged by fire in November of 1979.
For seven years, the Theatre stood idle until, in 1986, a group of concerned citizens formed the Turlock High School Auditorium Restoration Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving this local treasure. The group signed a long-term lease with the school district, and, soon thereafter, the Theatre proudly gained formal recognition as a historical landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.
For nearly 14 years, dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly raising funds for the building's restoration. After many years of effort and a tremendous outpouring of support from the community, the multi-million dollar restoration project was completed in the spring of 1999. The organization officially changed its name first to the Turlock Community Auditorium and later to the Turlock Community Theatre and opened the doors to a new era of cultural enrichment for the community.
In the five years since its Grand Opening in April of 1999, the Turlock Community Theatre has hosted a variety of activities, including:
- Popular headlining entertainers.
- Symphony and chamber music.
- Big band music.
- Dance including ballet, ethnic, modern, jazz, and children's productions.
- Choral performances.
Live theater including musicals, dramas, one-man shows, and children's theater.
Among the many nationally and internationally known entertainers to grace the Theatre's stage are Debbie Reynolds, Ann-Margret, Lou Rawls, The Smothers Brothers, Tony Orlando, Glenn Yarborough, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Nat King Cole Story "Unforgettable," The Boston Brass, The Gatlin Brothers, The Limeliters, the Sons of the San Joaquin, Anne Murray, Rita Coolidge, The Massenkoff Russian Folk Festival, the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats, the National Dance Company of Siberia, The Umbilical Brothers, Leahy, Hall & Oates, Jackson Browne, Jewel, Olivia Newton-John, Paul Anka, Melissa Manchester, Julio Iglesias, Manhattan Transfer, John Fogerty and the Brigham Young University International Dance Ensemble.
The Theatre is currently home to the Turlock Community Concert Association series of performing artists, the Turlock Junior Miss Program, the Miss Stanislaus County Scholarship Program, and regularly hosts performances by the Modesto Symphony, the June McVey Dance Center, the Backstage Academy of Dance, and Fantazia Dance Productions, as well as events by the Assyrian American Civic Club, Emanuel Medical Center, Primerica Business Seminars, and many companies and church organizations throughout the region.
In April 2005, the 1000-seat Turlock Community Theatre enters its 7th year as a high-quality center of cultural enrichment, dedicated to supporting local arts and community organizations, bringing premiere entertainment and events to the stage, and ultimately enhancing the quality of life for all groups and ages in Stanislaus County and the Valley region.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Theatre is governed by a well respected, community based Board of Directors and overseen by a professional theatre management company, and, under their guidance, relies on the financial support of patrons and donors for its continued success and development. Currently, the Theatre is supported by over 500 season ticket patrons. In addition, the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation has pledged matching funds for every dollar raised up to $250,000 this year and next. The funds are used for capital improvements and maintenance of this beautiful historic landmark, to provide excellent programming at reasonable ticket prices, and to offer the facility to renters at affordable rates.
The Turlock Community Theatre is located in the Turlock School District Building at 1574 E. Canal Drive at Colorado Avenue. The business office is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Anyone interested in visiting the theatre informally is encouraged to come by during business hours, and more formal group tours of the entire facility may be arranged by contacting the office at (209) 668-1169.