Nancy Green, a fixture on Cambria’s theater scene for the past quarter-century, is retiring as executive director of Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre.
“To establish a proper art center in Cambria, that has been my mission. To bring this gift to the community,” Green said. “And it’s been one tiny miracle after another.
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“The people I have needed have showed up when I needed them. And it truly takes a village. A lot of people have contributed their time, talent, and money to make this happen. And that is what it is all about, the people. That is what community theatre is about.”
Green, 86, moved to Cambria in 1989 after living in New York City for several years and, before that, in Europe. Her husband was in international finance with Mobil Oil, which sent them to Germany in the 1960s, where she founded the first English-speaking community theater there. It is still running today.
But Green wasn’t done with new endeavors. In 1992, three years after moving to Cambria, she founded the Allied Arts Theatre Group with friend and fellow actress Judith Jesness, producing one-act plays and sketch shows in the 1881 Santa Rosa schoolhouse in the West Village. Jesness moved away 10 years ago and now lives in the Sacramento area.
“I learned so much from Judith,” Green said. “We were able to do a lot with that tiny space that had no backstage, or much of a stage for that matter.”
The venue was indeed small, with room for a sage that measured 12 by 8 feet and just 50 seats, but Green’s group staged 15 productions there from 1996 to 2006.
That’s when the group moved from one old schoolhouse to another, establishing a performing arts center alongside Coast Unified School District offices at 1350 Main St. The center includes a theater that’s much larger than the Santa Rosa schoolhouse.
“We were over the moon!” Green said. “We had so many exciting plans, dreams that have mostly come true, though it has taken a few years!”
Improvements in the venue have included the addition of new stadium seating, improved lighting and sound, and a thrust stage that creates the ability to present larger-scale productions.
Next year, it will be the site for the new ambitious four-day Cambria Film Festival.
Green has been instrumental in bringing that event to fruition. Scheduled to run Feb. 8 through 11 — the weekend before Valentine’s Day — the festival will feature some 50 shorts and 12 feature-length films, each with its own take on romance.
“This is just such a fun thing for the community,” Green said in an interview this summer. “Everybody is very willing to help us, so it’s wonderful. We’re making a statement about Cambria: It’s someplace to come and enjoy yourself, not just spend a weekend on the beach.”
The festival is just one of several projects Green has spearheaded over the years. In 2015, she launched a series she dubbed Cabaresque as “kind of an experiment.” The series has presented a variety of stage acts, from comedy to musical, including magician Rick Bruce (The Village Wizard), a Beatles tribute act, Café Musique and the annual holiday radio-play re-enactment of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The last of these is planned again for this year.
To establish a proper art center in Cambria, that has been my mission. To bring this gift to the community. And it’s been one tiny miracle after another.
Nancy Green, Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre co-founder and executive director
Under Green’s direction, CCAT also hosted Charlie and Sandi Shoemake’s Famous Jazz Artist Series in 2015, and more recently began a Reader’s Theatre series along with a series of classic movie romances that served as a prelude to next year’s film festival.
Jill Turnbow, who took the reins as artistic director at CCAT at the beginning of 2017, will continue in that role while also serving as Green’s interim replacement until a new executive director is chosen.
Turnbow, David Norum, Tyler Lopez and Erin Parsons star in CCAT’s current production, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
“I plan to carry on with Nancy’s vision, to bring the community together with the shared experience of great theatre,” Turnbow said.
Joe Crowley and Vito Tullo will also remain, with Crowley serving as technical director. Tullo, 91, has been with the theatre for 22 years and is a constant presence, working on every production as stage manager, house manager or set-builder.
Turnbow is adding Neil Giannini as marketing director and Lisa Winn as volunteer coordinator/house manager.
Green will continue to be involved in the Cambria Film Festival and plans to appear on stage in a couple of projects during 2018.