Playhouse Merced Works Through Covid Challenges

Stephanie Atkinson, who has been Office Manager at Playhouse Merced since last September, feels she is working at the new and improved Playhouse because the theater is doing things that haven’t been done before, and everyone is excited.

She told the Times, “Part of the reason I feel this way is we have a new Artistic Director and new Education Director, and they make a dynamo of a team!”

The new Education Director is LuanaLei Turetzky, and the new Artistic Director is G. B. Blackmon.

Atkinson said, “Unfortunately, the Playhouse wasn’t able to pursue its season this year due to COVID.  However, one of the original productions of our 2021-22 season is ‘Sponge Bob, the Musical’, and it is coming up.  As to the main roles, it will be performed by youth about high school age up, but the ensemble will consist of people of all ages.

“Dusty Guthier is the Director of ‘Sponge Bob, the Musical.’  Dennis Brown is the Musical Director.  Katy Uyeno is the choreographer.  This will be our big production, and we’re really excited about it.  It will be performed Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from May 6 through May 29.

“We’re holding an audition for ‘Sponge Bob’ at two locations in one day:  Buhach Colony High School Theater on February 12 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and Playhouse Merced from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. that day.  Those who would like to audition can go online and read the character descriptions, and see who they’d like to play.  They can then schedule their own audition online.  Call backs on auditions will take place on February 15 and 16.”  If anyone has questions, they can e mail Stephanie Atkinson at

“Currently, the Playhouse, which cancelled its season due to COVID, is getting back to where everyone feels safe enough to come to shows and also to perform in shows, and a lot of the Board members are very pro-vaccination.  We contacted the Merced County Department of Public Health, and it has been sending out nurses on Tuesdays and Wednesdays since November to give vaccinations, and in the last month, they’ve also been doing COVID testing.  This health service takes place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Playhouse at 452 W. Main Street in Merced, and they’re going to do it through February.

“An upcoming event is the ‘Gotta Love Improv’ Mini-Camp for youth ages 7 to 12 from Feb. 22 through 24 between 9 a.m. and 12 noon, during Presidents’ Day week.

“The kids will learn about character creation, read scripts, and do Improv.

“The camp is taught by Rachel Battisti.  She has been with the Playhouse for 11 years.  She is our Youth Outreach Coordinator.

“Rachel Battisti goes out to schools and teaches with Play Anywhere.  She just went to Thomas Olaeta School in Atwater, and next she is doing a play at Aileen Colburn School.  She is one of the two instructors who have a play ready to go, and all they need is performers in grades kindergarten to sixth.  The kids get to audition for parts, and they get to learn their parts after school for two weeks, and on the last day, the kids get to perform for the entire school and there is also live-streaming of the performance on You Tube.  We have scholarships available.  All the information will be on the Playhouse Merced website,

“Playhouse Merced has a Conservatory for the community youth, and there will be a Summer Conservatory this year.

“Perennial Players is a group that performs, which is made up of those age 50 and up.  Sandy Hay heads that department.  Sandy is preparing a show along with Rich Barnes and Sandra Hill, directors.  It is called ‘An Evening of One Acts’, and it will be performed March 4 through 6 at the Playhouse.  It’s a vignette of three shows covering everyday life, and including life, love, friendship and growing old in today’s world.  One is a comedy, another is about people who move into a retirement community in Florida, and the third is about getting stuck in an elevator.  Tickets will be available on the Playhouse Merced website starting on February 1.”

Finally, Playhouse Merced is holding an indoor yard sale on Feb. 5 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon featuring an array of clothing, fixtures, frames and furniture.

Downtown MercedLocal EntertainmentLocal Performing ArtsMercedMerced CountyPlayhouse Merced
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