The Santa Paula Theater Center
You can get an idea of our handsome cast minus the funny
lookin' thing playing David in the upper right corner.
"Our Town" and "Company" were done as part of the Santa Paula Theater Company's season 1990-91. "Company" still holds the record as their most successful production.
|A word or two about Dana...
The Santa Paula Theater Center was the project of veteran character actor Dana Elcar whom you might remember as "Pete Thornton" from the popular 'MacGyver' series. Dramatic Arts were attempted in Ventura, Oxnard and Thousand Oaks but the Santa Clara Valley never had any claim to an endeavor of this type until he broke the ground.While we were in production on "Company", Dana was afflicted with the final stage of glaucoma. It seemed understandably daunting in nature but he had the courage to face down his personal dilemma by incorporating the malady into Pete's character in a memorable episode called "Blind Faith". An incredible career spanning 50+ years was unfairly curtailed by fate. Some of my personal favorite performances of his are:
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara with William Devane, Martin Sheen and Howard Da Silva in "The Missiles Of October",
The Ubiquitos Col. Lard on "Black Sheep Squadron" and
Russian Ambassador Moseyivich with Roy Scheider and John Lithgow in "2010";
...and as a regular on "Baretta" and the popular horror soap from the 60's "Dark Shadows".
As Father Samsa in a student-produced film of Kafka's Metamorphosis in Ann Arbor, Michigan- 1951. During his College days, many of the cast, including Dana, came from an off-campus group called The Arts Theater Club, and others were recruited from local Ann Arbor theater organizations. This was probably his first film role.
--Photo and History Courtesy of William Hampton
The Fillmore Herald
Thursday March 7, 1991
It has been said that "Our Town" is America's finest play. If this is true, and many drama critics believe it is, then the play should receive the finest kind of treatment. And over at the Theater Center in Santa Paula, it most definitely does. Written by the late Thornton Wilder, who attended Teacher School in Ojai as a young man, Our Town is the story of the human experience as seen through the lives of the simple but good folks who live in Grover's Corners, an early 20th Century village in New England.
...All of the principals are excellent.. and are just right for their demanding roles and so is Fillmore's Lowell Noel as George's father, Dr. Gibbs. Noel who began what has become an impressive professional acting career as the lead in the 1970 senior class play, is especially effective in the scene where he gently chides George for neglecting his responsibilities to his mother.
...Truly, there is no doubt about it, Thornton Wilder's Our Town is a special work of art. I performed in Our Town in 1947 and 1980 and directed it in 1961 as Fillmore High School's senior play. All of those productions had special meaning for me. I love the play, and so do all the people I know who have ever been involved in its production. Of their performances, that certainly includes the members of the cast at the Santa Paula Theater Center, who have put together a high quality production that is richly deserving of the valley's support. It is exactly the kind of play that should be performed for the people who live in and love the Fillmore-Santa Paula area of Ventura County.
Ventura County Star Free Press
Friday February 22, 1991
"Our Town," Thornton Wilder's classic slice of Americana seems to have found a particularly appropriate spot on the Santa Paula Theater Center stage. Wilder's fictional New England town of Grover's Corners has the warm glow of life and the chill of death that touches everyone everywhere, but most fundamentally in a small town.
...Following Wilder's stage directions, a minimum of scenery is arrayed: ladders suffice for upstairs windows, tables and chairs for kitchens. The entire cast is busy with well-defined mime. The cast of "Our Town" is required to recapture past innocence in this much more cynical time. For the most part, they do it very well.
...The families also have that sense of far-off time and place, combined with such naturalness that they could walk right off the stage into life. Lowell V. Noel as Doctor Gibbs is particularly effective as a father who guides with a gentle hand.
..."Our Town" is at its strongest when exemplifying the basic virtues of family and home, with universal meanings radiating from the smallest personal moments. If it is a theme that seems anachronistic in the 1990s, the loss is ours.
Santa Paula Daily Chronicle
Wednesday November 7, 1990
The skyline of New York City makes the opening glance at the set of "Company" look high technology, but a needle topped building seems somewhat out of place (brought by some tourist from Seattle, perhaps?). It's strictly high-technology, this excellent set, but the story of "Company is as old as the relationship between man and woman and slightly disjointed like the sight of the needle-topped building in the New York City skyline.The coyly-colored pink and blue set must be Freudian on the part of the set designer but effective it is for this story of a man and men and women. "Company," Santa Paula Theater Center's first foray into the world of musicals, is a cornerstone of the group's spreading its wings to encompass more variety of theater. It is a triumphant use of this innovative, entertaining event presented on Braoadway in 1970 and winner of the Critic's Circle and Tony Awards for best musical, graced with the songs of the legendary Stephen Sondheim.
...And what would Robert do without his "Company" who have made him a Godfather to their children seven times?
...The songs in "Company" are outstanding and the performances offer a moment of glory for each of the supporting cast...
...Dave (Lowell Noel) and Jenny (Debra Masserella) give fine performances during a scene involving Robert and a bottle of Tequila and some self-revelation with Noel taking a fine turn at one of the songs with a mellow, calm voice.
...Company provides hours of fast-paced entertainment with wonderful hummable songs and scenes that stick in the mind...
...The cast are all graceful, the voices solid on wonderful songs and the laughs (and hints of tears) are always present in SPTC's production of "Company". But when company is fast, funny and fascinating, there's always room for more...be smart- plan to keep company with "Company" because chances are, with this wonderful musical, you might be crowded out. "Company" is a show that has arrived at the Santa Paula Theater Center and it's a show that shouldn't be missed.
Ventura County Star Free Press
Thursday November 29, 1990
To see Lowell Noel stroll down the streets of Fillmore where he lives, or Santa Paula where he works, one could hardly imagine this man rolling on the ground, feigning drunkenness, infecting others with his laughter. Nor would one envision this bearded, stern-faced man enticing an audience to tears while singing about the rewards and pitfalls of marriage. As a member of the Santa Paula Theater Center's talented cast of "Company," Noel does just that. "He's a ultra-talented, a multi-dimensional singer in my opinion, and I hold him in the highest regard," said Bob Bragg, music director for "Company." Bragg, who produces commercials as well has used Noel's voice in a number of recent productions, including the Ventura Volvo and the Experience Ojai commercials."There's that one line that will make all the harmonies work, and he's able to find that. That's a real production value, to have a singer that can do that," Bragg said. Though Noel has perfect pitch, his true love is acting, an endeavor on which he concentrated for all of the nearly 16 years he was away from Fillmore. Noel was born in 1951 at Merriman Manor in Santa Paula, the closest hospital to Fillmore. He grew up in Fillmore in a house on Blaine Street. A small orchard had to be moved to build houses on the new street."Mom always had classical music around," Noel recalled.They also had Little Golden Records, recordings of popular tunes of the day and Disney favorites conducted by Mitch Miller with Anne Lloyd and The Sandpipers. "We had a stack of them and I'd wear them out," Noel said. It was at Fillmore High that Noel got his first taste of theater life.After playing the lead in "Mr. Gallion's School," "I came to know I'd have some future in entertainment," Noel said. As Mr. Gallion, who returns to school after retirement to straighten up the rebellious student body, Noel had to feign a heart attack. "It was a great stretch for a first acting experience," he said with a chuckle. From high school he went to Moorpark College, where he gained more experience acting with the Horizon Players in Simi Valley. It was in 1974 that Noel left Fillmore, not to return permanently until almost three months ago. He left his home town to attend Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. "I had this silly notion that going to Christian school would enhance my career opportunities," Noel said. At ORU, Noel was in several plays, including "The Matchmaker," in which he played the drunken Malachi Stack, and for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Award of 1975 from Alpha Psi Omega, a thespian fraternal organization. Though he doesn't hold much regard for the university, Noel cherishes the opportunity he had to make two very good friends who encouraged him to pursue acting as a career. "In their minds there was no question," he recalled. "There was a big question in my mind." When his friends moved to Colorado, he followed, and three days later, in a dinner theater, he got the parts of Pseudolus and Prologus in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." "I'm very fortunate. Twenty years I've been doing it and have never been in a flop," he said. Upon his return to Fillmore, he began working at Santa paula Equipment Rental to "pay the bills" and was cast as David in "Company". When he sings "Sorry-Grateful," a solo about the trials and rewards of being wed, his audience is lost, some to the point of tears.
...Although his first love is theater, he now has his sights set on more ambitious projects. "The thing I'm working on now is film. Film is the longest lasting impression you can make as an actor," he said. His pragmatism toward his acting craft, however, doesn't diminish his affection for live theater. "But the truth is, If you weren't there for that night's performance you would have no grasp on what it took to coalesce the performance," he said. "In film your little gift will be there forever." While he's knocking on all the doors in Hollywood, he keeps his hopes high. "If I can make it, just get by, I'll be happy," he said.
`The thing I'm working on now is film. Film is the longest lasting impression you can make as an actor'- Lowell Noel
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