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Sutter Street Theatre taking on new roles

By: Laura Newell, Telegraph Staff Writer
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While the familiar trees down the center of Sutter Street are being torn out by their roots, the region’s only year-round performing arts theater is putting down roots. With a new season and name, Sutter Street Theatre, formerly Stage Nine Theatre, looks to impress theatergoers and students. Sutter Street Theatre’s Off Broadway season opened recently with “Brothers!,” by Dave Williams with a positive reaction to both the production and the new name said Connie Mockenhaupt, artistic director. “Tickets have been selling well and we even had to turn people away,” said Mockenhaupt. “We have gotten a ton of positive response. We are not associated with the Stage Nine in Sacramento anymore, so it makes sense.” “Brothers!” will perform through Feb. 6, times and dates vary. Also performing is “Alice in Wonderland” for the Young People’s Season. The show runs through Feb. 14. Ticket prices vary for the Young People’s series and Off Broadway. Check sutterstreettheatre.com for details. “With the quality and time that goes into a show, there is zero difference between our Off Broadway series and our Young People’s series,” said Mike Jimena, managing director and Mockenhaupt’s husband of 12 years. “Since we don’t have a lot of space, we really pay attention to detail.” Finding Folsom Jimena said that he and his wife originally planned to open the theater in El Dorado Hills four years ago. However, after a venue opened in Folsom that fit their requirements, Folsom became home. In September 2006, the couple leased the space on Sutter Street and opened their first show in November 2006. The theater is now a nonprofit organization. “We are artists, but we are also entrepreneurs,” said Jimena. The couple met while working at Sacramento High School, he worked as the booster club president and she worked as the Visual and Performing Arts program coordinator. “It’s a perfect marriage. He’s a performing artist and I’m a visual artist,” said Mockenhaupt. Through their management, Sutter Street Theatre turned into a production and teaching theater with three buildings including a theater, backstage store and classroom/workshop area. “We now have an Off Broadway Season, a Young People’s Season, a Cabaret Series and a teaching academy which offers not only acting but singing, dancing and visual art,” said Mockenhaupt. Jimena teaches the visual art class and much of his and his students’ artwork is displayed in the theater. He said that all artists teaching at Sutter Street Theatre have received credentials/training in their specialty. “I teach on the basis of individual painting, so it’s really your own,” said Jimena. “It’s a matter of the process.” Changing into Sutter Street Theatre The decision to change the theater’s name began last year after the addition of Allen Schmeltz as artistic associate. “Allen came to us from Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre (formly in Rancho Cordova),” said Jimena. “Now, he has become an institution with us. It isn’t a dictatorship by any means.” Schmeltz said he is enjoying working with the couple. Currently he is busy working on current and upcoming shows as well as teaching acting classes. “I love Connie and Mike,” Schmeltz said. “The nice thing is they give you a lot of artistic freedom.” Mockenhaupt said they decided to change the entire name to Sutter Street Theatre to better represent themselves. “This name just feels right. We’re happy,” said Mockenhaupt. * * * KNOW AND GO What: Sutter Street Theatre Where: 717 Sutter St., Folsom Info: 353-1001, sutterstreettheatre.com Telegraph Staff Writer Laura Newell can be reached at folsomadmin@goldcountrymedia.com.