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September 27, 2022

South Valley Civic Theatre’s warehouse is the epicenter of busy upcoming season

When South Valley Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast” ended its run on July 16, it began a meticulous process that many theater-goers don’t see.

The sets, costumes and numerous props are loaded up into boxes and transported from the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse to a warehouse in the city, where they’ll stay until they’ll be needed in some shape or form for a future show.

But storing these items is nowhere near as simple as shoving a box into a corner. No, each item will have to be removed separately and placed into its designated space by category.

And there are categories. So many of them.

From wigs to slacks, door handles to replica weapons, phones to typewriters, street lamps to baskets, and chairs to stairs, South Valley Civic Theatre’s warehouse is teeming with countless props, costumes and set pieces that cover eras from Victorian times to the present day that the theater group has amassed over its five decades of existence.

When a producer needs a specific item for a show, they will first reach out to Bill Tindall, the warehouse’s manager who can track down anything within the menagerie of wood, fabric, plastic and paper.

bill tindall south valley civic theatre warehouse
Bill Tindall shows off the numerous props inside South Valley Civic Theatre’s Morgan Hill warehouse. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

Tindall estimates a couple thousand costumes hang near the ceiling, where containers of more specific clothing items are stacked beneath them, each labeled such as “short skirts,” “men’s black pants” and “Christmas.”

He stressed the importance of having pieces relevant to the period of each play. You wouldn’t find an iPhone in a show set in the 1990s, he noted as he held up a bag of early-day brick cell phones and flip phones, while standing next to a shelf with typewriters from various decades.

Even as the last show is being put away, multiple others are being conceptualized, designed, auditioned and rehearsed at the same time. It’s even more hectic inside the warehouse now as SVCT gears up for its ambitious new season across two venues.

“Honk Jr.” kicks off the five-show season at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse on Oct. 1, followed by the openings of “A Christmas Story” in November, “The Drowsy Chaperone” in February, “Sweeney Todd” in April and “Matilda the Musical” in June.

In addition, SVCT’s Limelight has four shows on tap at the Gilroy Arts Alliance, with “The Outsider” opening on Aug. 26, “The Fantasticks” in October, “Later Life” in January and “Becky’s New Car” in May.

Which means, there will be plenty of prop-searching and set-building within the warehouse’s walls over the next year.

“We are all going to be working on top of each other with these shows,” Tindall said. “We’re never going to be one show in the warehouse. Keeping it organized is super important.”

Peter Mandel, who on a recent Thursday afternoon was constructing a set piece for “The Outsider,” said this year will be a test to see how many shows the theater group can sustain in one season. It will also be Limelight’s largest set of shows in one season since SVCT assumed management at the end of 2019, after pandemic-related closures and challenges.

south valley civic theatre warehouse
Wig displays stand in front of containers of various clothing pieces. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

Mandel, who serves on SVCT’s board of directors, said each show takes many different people with various skill sets to pull off, including lighting design, choreographers, sound crews and numerous others.

“All these elements have to come together to get a show to open,” he said.

Tindall said he enjoys being a part of the three- to four-month-long process for each show, as activity slowly but surely ramps up in the warehouse as opening night approaches.

“I’m in here a lot by myself,” he said. “When a show comes in, we have the auditions, then the rehearsals start. Then all of a sudden the shop gets busy. It just starts layering in. It’s a huge family.”

SVCT is hoping to grow that family with more volunteers.

Anyone who wants to pitch in with the numerous aspects of theater are encouraged to become a member of SVCT or check out the volunteer opportunities at svct.org/volunteer.

Tickets for upcoming shows can be purchased at svct.org.

south valley civic theatre warehouse
An early 20th century wheelchair is shown in front of posters for shows South Valley Civic Theatre has performed over the decades. Photo: Tarmo Hannula
Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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