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Talent erupts at Volcano Theatre Company

Volcano’s heyday, when more than 10,000 people walked the cobblestone paths, may have been more than a century ago but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some treasure to be found in the little hamlet. Only now, it’s not in the mines but up on the stage.

Volcano was the site of California’s first amateur theatrical company and for the last 50 seasons the Volcano Theatre Company has been continuing that tradition with live theatrical productions that range from the offbeat to the well-known.

Spring and fall productions are held in the Cobblestone Theatre, which with 37 fixed seats (and eight fold up chairs) is the smallest fixed seat theatre in California. Built in 1856, the theatre originally started as Adolph Mayer’s Tobacco and Cigar Emporium and then later became Lavezzo’s Wine Shop. A fire around the turn of the century, fueled by a cellar full of high-proof spirits, left everything destroyed but the stone walls that still stand today. It was turned into an art gallery in the 1960s and then in 1989 the Thebaut family purchased it and donated it to the Volcano Theatre Company. 

Summer shows are held under the starry night sky across the street at the Volcano Amphitheater. Fronted by the carefully restored Gold Rush facade of the Hale Sash and Door Company, the amphitheater provides a larger venue with a maximum of 250 people.

Each season, from April to December the VTC stages four to five productions, including two summer shows and a show at Christmas, which routinely sells out.

“This theatre is a wonderful part of Amador County,” said VTC President Jim Estes. “It’s all driven by volunteers and is something that Volcano is really proud to have.”

VTC launched their 50th season earlier this year with a production of Neil Simon’s “Prisoner of Second Avenue,” which was the very first show that launched their endeavor on the stage.

“This was before some of the other theaters started, so it was a big deal and people were so excited to have something up here,” said Giles Turner, one of VTC’s founding members.

“Beowulf (And the Bard)” will open the amphitheater summer season, with shows running from June 9 to July 15. The comedy, written by Vidas Barzdukas and Christopher R. Bartlett, updates the Old English epic about the warrior Beowulf. Told by the Bard, who is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block, the story finds an aged and out-of-shape Beowulf being asked to save his new friends from the hideous beast Grendel.

The second summer show will be “Silent Sky” by Lauren Gunderson. It tells the true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt who challenges the role women had in science in the early 1900s. The show will run from Aug. 11 to Sept. 9.

The fall production will be a return to Noel Coward’s classic “Blithe Spirit,” which VTC also staged in their inaugural season. “Blithe Spirit” tells the story of Charles Condomine, a socialite and novelist who invites medium and clairvoyant Madame Arcati to his home for a seance. Condomine is only looking for material on the occult for his new novel and is skeptical of the eccentric Arcati, but his mind is changed when the median accidentally conjures up the ghost of Elvira, Condomine’s first wife, and she is none too pleased to find him married again, this time to the strait-laced Ruth.

The show will be staged at the Cobblestone Theatre from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

This year’s Christmas show will be the comedy “Dashing Through the Snow,” which unfolds days before Christmas at the Snowflake Inn in Texas as a cadre of crazy guests check in for the holidays. 

The show will be in the Cobblestone Theatre from Nov. 17 to Dec. 16.

All shows in the amphitheater start at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. for those wishing to enjoy a picnic beforehand.

Shows in the Cobblestone Theatre start at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

For tickets visit or call (209) 419-0744.