Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, CA marks 40th Anniversary

by Kim Taylor
(Sonoma and Marin County)

Cinnabar Theater as it looked in 1970. The former school house now features a charming theater  and other amenities.<br>Photo provided by Kim Taylor

Cinnabar Theater as it looked in 1970. The former school house now features a charming theater and other amenities.
Photo provided by Kim Taylor

PETALUMA, CA ~ Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma has announced its 2012 to 2013 season and prepares to celebrate its 40th Anniversary.

From its small and nimble space atop a little hill in Petaluma, California ~ Cinnabar Theater attracts the best Bay Area actors, classical vocalists and musicians, as well as talented artistic collaborators, enabling this 40-year-old organization to present year-round, critically acclaimed and award-winning presentations of
operas (performed in English); American musicals; musical revues; Broadway comedies and dramas; solo plays; and world premiere presentations.

It all began with Marvin Klebe. Once a North Dakota farm boy, Klebe became a successful classically trained baritone. He worked as an international opera singer and performed with San Francisco Opera.

In 1970, Klebe and his wife, Jan, bought a 1908 schoolhouse in Northern Petaluma. With carpentry skills and the help of their four sons, the building was transformed into a 99-seat theater which eventually became Sonoma County’s only venue producing opera and musical theater, dramatic theater, chamber series, special festivals and solo events. Marvin Klebe served as set designer and builder, opera director and also performed in several productions.

The company's first production "The Tricycle," was presented in 1972.

In 1975, a young opera singer, Elly Lichenstein, had just settled in Petaluma with a job working at the cafeteria on the Sonoma State University campus when her roommate ask her for help in finishing the costumes for a Cinnabar Theater production of "Man of La Mancha."

"The moment I walked into the place, I knew I'd come home," said Lichenstein, who became friends with the Klebes and eventually Marvin's protégée.

During those early years, Lichenstein said staffers would stop at nothing in their effort to promote the Cinnabar Theater and its productions.

"We tried everything under the sun, including parading through downtown Petaluma with sandwich boards," said Lichenstein. "Gathering talent was exciting in those days. Artists flocked to places like ours to collaborate and share knowledge. We worked with so many types of artists, both performing and visual, that we learned a great deal. Sometimes the end product was a mess, but it was always a grand experiment."

After Klebe’s death in 1999, Cinnabar Theater continued under the leadership Elly Lichenstein, who serves today as executive director.

Cinnabar Theater's upcoming 2012-2013 season features a world premiere musical; a modern farce; a classic opera by Bizet; an American stage classic by Arthur Miller; and a cabaret show written by Frank and Malachy McCourt featuring Irish tunes, ballads and deliciously dry wit.

Cinnabar Theater, located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North in Petaluma, Calif.

Comments for Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, CA marks 40th Anniversary

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Thanks for the menories, Kim!
by: Suzi

Greetings Kim,

Thanks so much for your wonderful and informative article about the Cinnabar Theater - what a great history of community involvement and determination to provide a venue for the performing arts - especially opera.


Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Sonoma County Adventures.