South Valley Civic Theatre (initially called Gilroy Community Theatre) has been presenting live theater to patrons from Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and the surrounding areas for over 48 years. It is the resident theater company of the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse. Each annual season features five productions, typically including a large musical with an all-age cast, a smaller and/or perhaps more modern or less well-known musical, a teen musical, a children’s musical, and a non-musical comedy or drama. Our play selection committee strives each year to create a balance of classic and contemporary theater that showcases the talents of our community and beyond, and which captivates our audiences.
Gilroy Community Theatre (GCT) was established in 1969 by Gilroy residents Al and Frances (aka “Pinky”) Bloom and a small group of dedicated volunteers. GCT’s first show was Come Blow Your Horn, in September, 1969. GCT became a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization in 1974. The “Theater Angels Art League” (precursor to today’s “Gilroy Arts Alliance”) initially served as the fund-raising/auxiliary end of the theater. They typically provided an opening night reception for each production.
Initial productions were typically mounted at Gavilan College (usually three a year) and, as GCT slowly became profitable, they began to give back to the community, establishing a scholarship fund for Gilroy High School and Gavilan College students in 1975 and donating draperies and other equipment for the theater facilities at Gavilan College. In return, Gilroy Unified School District and Gavilan College provided free venues. At this time, GCT also started setting aside money in anticipation of a permanent future home in. In 1978, GCT was honored by the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce as one of three outstanding clubs in Gilroy.
In 1983, George Costa joined GCT as Managing Director. Costa was producer and director with the San Jose Civic Light Opera (later renamed American Musical Theatre of San Jose) from 1963 until 1981 and was responsible for tremendous growth in SJCLOs growth and status. His skills and experience were important factors in GCT’s continued growth over the next few years.
However, the early 1980’s were also tough times financially for GCT, with ambitious productions and small audiences creating an ongoing budget deficit. Board members frequently fronted production costs, and worries grew about the continued viability of the organization. Two pivotal events in 1985 turned GCT around: Russell Hendrickson, of Center Stage in Gilroy, generously put on two benefit performances of The 1940’s Radio Hour for GCT. Then a highly successful summer production of Annie finally moved GCT into the black.
In 1985, the GCT board voted to expand performance locations to include Hollister and Morgan Hill and. to reflect the broadened coverage, they changed their name to South Valley Civic Theatre (SVCT). The first show performed in Morgan Hill was Same Time Next year, in December, 1985, and the first in Hollister was They’re Playing Our Song, in March, 1986.
In 1991, SVCT identified what they hoped would become their permanent home in a former nightclub in Morgan Hill’s Tennant Station shopping center. The City of Morgan Hill provided SVCT with a $5,000 redevelopment grant, and SVCT members spent their evenings and weekends painting, furnishing, and wiring their new playhouse. The South Valley Playhouse opened with a children’s performance of Narnia in October, 1991. However, four years later, the property was sold and SVCT found itself once again homeless.
For the next decade, SVCT fell back to performing in diverse venues: Gilroy High School, San Benito High School, Live Oak High School, the Old Gilroy Hotel, the Good Food Company in Morgan Hill, the Pumpkin Patch in San Martin, Gavilan Theater, and even Rosso’s Furniture store. Rehearsal space ranged from the back of a paint store in Gilroy to the community room in a Morgan Hill mobile home park. SVCT membership continued to grow slowly, although show attendance was sporadic as patrons struggled to follow where SVCT would be performing next.
In 2001, as the City of Morgan Hill embarked upon a major redevelopment project to build a Community and Cultural Center in downtown Morgan Hill. SVCT collaborated with the city to have a 1920′s church already on the property moved to the corner of the campus and refurbished as a modern playhouse. The Morgan Hill Community Playhouse was beautifully renovated as as a charming blend of old and new, re-born into a modern, 186 seat performance facility. SVCT was established as the resident theater company of the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, and SVCT opened at the Playhouse with Lend Me A Tenor in February, 2003.
In January, 2009, SVCT held a 40th anniversary gala celebration! Among those in attendance was GCT co-founder Pinky Bloom.
With a permanent home, SVCT has thrived. Audiences and membership have grown. Many shows have played to sold out crowds. Increased membership and ticket sales have enabled SVCT to afford rental warehouse space for rehearsals, storage, and set construction. SVCT continues to stretch itself, staging more challenging productions. This, in turn, draws additional acting and production staff talent from a broad geographic area. These factors all contribute to the high caliber of our productions. SVCT is proud of the quality of our shows and of the community commitment and involvement that brings our shows to life and delights our audiences.