Fresno Beehive

‘The heartbeat of our culture and community.’ Fresno theater company closes after a decade

After 10 years and more than 30 productions, StageWorks Fresno has announced its final curtain call.

In a statement on its website and social media, the theater company on Friday bid “a heartfelt and fond farewell to the community.”

“We are forever grateful for the support of our patrons, donors, artists and creatives that have allowed us to bring challenging, visionary, thought-provoking theatre to the Central Valley. It has been an amazing ten years full of laughter and tears and most of all wonderful, lasting memories,” the statement read.

“Please continue to support live, local theatre. It is the heartbeat of our culture and community.”

Stageworks Fresno was the brainchild and passion project of Joel Abels, and his second theater venture in Fresno. In the late 1990s he started Children’s Musical Theaterworks.

He started Stageworks while working and living in New York.

The company’s first production was the Broadway musical “[TITLE OF SHOW],” which was popular in New York at the time and also based on the experiences of former Fresnan (and Good Company Players alumna) Heidi Blickenstaff.

At the time, Abels wanted to establish the company as an educational/creative hub for musical theater to bring in workshops with members of Actors’ Equity and the Screen Actors Guild.

In an interview on theater site The Munro Review, Abels said the closing had nothing to do with the successes or failures of individual shows. In fact, the company had only one box-office flop — even though it was “a powerful and triumphant play,” according to theater critic Donald Munro’s review in The Bee.

But box office sales, even on a sold-out run for a show like “La Cage Aux Folles,” can’t cover the production costs. In the end, there wasn’t enough financial support from big donors, Abels told The Munro Review.

The company will be hosting a final performance on Dec. 1 at the Bonner Auditorium at the Fresno Art Museum.

It’s a Cabaret Night, with performances from Taylor and Daniel Abels Rodriguez, Meg Clark, Amalie Larson, Terry Lewis and others. The event will help pay for any costs associated with the company’s closure.

Tickets are $50 and include wine and hor d’oeurves. Seating is limited.

Joshua Tehee covers breaking news for The Fresno Bee, with a focus on entertainment and a heavy emphasis on the Central Valley music scene. You can see him share the area’s top entertainment options Friday mornings on KMPH’s “Great Day” and read more of his work here.