On July 3, Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) held Come Together, a Beatles concert and picnic, which celebrated the return of communal entertainment and raised funds for ETC’s extensive educational programming.
Many of the 200 supporters arrived at Godric Grove, Elings Park with a picnic lunch and blanket and enjoyed a leisurely meal at the spacious, scenic hilltop venue before the concert in the adjacent amphitheater began. For the sold-out crowd, there was delightful Santa Barbara weather, breathtaking natural beauty, and exhilaration to once again be able to safely gather.
According to Education Director Brian McDonald, ETC chose a Beatles concert because of the Beatles’ buoyant and joyful music and messages of love, peace, and togetherness. With the lifting of restrictions on communal gatherings, MacDonald shared, a Beatles Come Together concert seemed appropriate.
There was a palpable sense of community joy at the event, especially when the audience heeded the performers’ calls to sing along to favorites like “All You Need is Love” but also when they just sat back and took in the singing, including 15-year-old Cassidy Broderick’s sweet solo performance of “Penny Lane.”
The songs were interspersed with fun facts about the Beatles from Ivor Davis, who covered the Beatles entire first American tour for the London Daily Express in 1963 and chronicled his experiences in the book, “The Beatles and Me on Tour.” His interesting and funny anecdotes from firsthand experience added depth and humor to the event.
Of the six youth singers — Hunter Hawkins (20), Cassidy Broderick (15), McKenna Gemberling (17), Daniel Brackett (20), Ben Catch (19), and Emerson Steady (17) —all but one have performed at ETC and despite their young age, all have impressive experience. The live band was led by Brian Mann (from The Idiomatiques). The performers delighted the audience throughout the 75-minute concert, with some minor technical issues not fazing them or bothering the audience.
Fundraising is critical for ETC’s educational programming, which is dependent on grants and donations for more than half of its funding. With award-winning professional actor/director Brian McDonald, ETC offers acting classes for kids and adults. Classes were held outdoors during COVID, but will resume in person in the fall.
As part of its Young Actors Conservatory, a rigorous summer program, McDonald just completed a two week Camp Broadway for youth ages 8 to 12 and on July 26, he and other faculty will do a new Musical Theater Performance Intensive for youth ages 13 to 19.
In the annual, free, five-month long Young Playwrights Festival, youth ages 13-19 are mentored and coached by theater professionals. Their plays are then read by professional actors before a live audience. COVID adaption last year took the form of Zoom for participants and audience, while this year the actors read the playwrights’ work in the theater for a virtual audience.
Student Matinees, including three this upcoming season, bring area high school students to the theater. ETC provides advance study guides, a post-performance talk with the cast, and financial assistance for transportation.
With COVID constraints, ETC still did three productions last season, of course with a shift to the virtual world: You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (youth production), A Christmas Carol, and An Iliad. ETC fans are looking forward to live performances in the 2021-22 season, with productions of Tenderly, The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, Carmen Jones, American Son, and Sleuth.
For more info, go to http://etcsb.org.
For coverage of other events, go to independent.com/society.