The Birdcage Theatre troupe wants to make you cry. They also want to make you laugh, think and feel, believing that there is no substitute for the immediacy of a live theater performance.
Since 1984, Birdcage Theatre has offered local theater fans the opportunity both to attend and participate in what it calls the “ever-vital tradition of live theater.” It is the only community theater in a permanent location in Oroville.
As an all-volunteer organization, Birdcage Theatre truly is a community theater. It draws on people from throughout the area with all levels of theatrical background. Over the years the organization has developed a sort of repertory company of “known talents,” but it consistently welcomes new talent as well.
“You’ll find somebody, and they’ve never been in a play before, and we discover how talented they are,” explained Judith Davies, Birdcage Theatre board member and publicity coordinator. “They wouldn’t have a chance to blossom without the theater.”
The theater’s fall season began with Wait Until Dark and will continue with Blithe Spirit, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Snoopy! and Fuddy Meers.
Davies explained that the organization likes to offer an “eclectic mix” of plays, from the old favorites to newer, more controversial offerings, in order to appeal to a broad audience.
“You can’t underestimate the intelligence of the playgoers, especially not in Oroville,” Davies explained. “It’s unwise to do that, because they’re a very good audience and they’re very appreciative.”
Tickets for Birdcage Theatre productions are available at Kelly’s Bookstore in Oroville and Diamond W Western Wear in Chico.
Birdcage Theatre reaches out to the community in many ways other than its stage productions. Kidcage, for example, is an annual workshop for school-age children, who present an original play each summer under the direction of local high school students. This past summer, a new workshop for individuals between the ages of 17 and 30 presented the world premiere of a dramatic satire called First Person Shooter.
Another popular offering is Play-Readers, which meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Oroville branch of the Butte County Library. This gathering offers community members an opportunity to “act” in a play without the risk of stage fright. The play chosen for October is A Streetcar Named Desire.
But even if acting is not your style, Davies emphasized there are many ways one can help out Birdcage Theatre. Volunteers are invited to construct sets, paint posters, sing and dance, style hair and wigs, do make-up, decorate the lobby and more.
An important current project volunteers can assist with is to inventory the theater’s collection of costumes. Plans are to clean and mend them as needed and reduce the inventory to a manageable size by sharing them with The Attic, an auxiliary of Oroville Hospital. The Attic, in turn, will allow Birdcage Theatre to borrow clothes as needed from its selection.
With winter closing in, another immediate goal is to fix the theater’s leaking roof. The group also hopes to make plans to remodel and make better use of its facility—the former Oroville Mercury-Register building—located in historic downtown Oroville.
Davies has even loftier aspirations for the future.
“Our long-term goals are to maintain and enhance our position as a source of pride and an asset to our community, and to continue to be a catalyst for various kinds of artistic creativity,” she concluded.