History of the Siskiyou Performing Arts Center

Siskiyou County is the northernmost county of California, bordering on Oregon. It is a mountainous, rural community, with the main industries based on the extraction of natural resources. The most famous landmark of Siskiyou County is Mt. Shasta. The largest town in Siskiyou County is Yreka, with a population of about 7,000. Yreka and the surrounding areas have a rich history in gold mining and logging. Residents, to the present day, retain the adventurous and active spirit of the old west. Siskiyou County is the American West.

The Siskiyou Performing Arts Center (SPAC), based in Yreka, began in 1974. A concerned group of Siskiyou county residents felt the need for community theater. During the first year, SPAC staged two major productions and organized a touring melodrama production during the summer months. Because SPAC did not have a theater building, the performances were held throughout Siskiyou County in whatever structures were available. In January, 1975, SPAC rented an old church building in Yreka. That building, named the Dunlap Theater, has been the home of SPAC ever since. SPAC was able to purchase the building complex in 1983. In 1989, SPAC received a grant from the McConnell Foundation which enabled us to pay off our mortgage on the building.

The SPAC Theater Building in Yreka has been the site of many, many productions over the past years. We have presented major theater productions, musicals, poetry readings, acting classes, benefit concerts, etc. SPAC has also produced original theater and musical events which were written and directed by local artists. Over the past few years, the local junior college, the College of the Siskiyous, has held acting, directing, and writing classes in the SPAC theater. In addition, other volunteer organizations hold their offerings in the theater building.

The SPAC theater is a very active and busy venue, always ready and willing to offer its stage and seats for the edification of the performing arts in fascinating and enlightening the citizenry of Siskiyou county. In the past few years, our membership has grown tremendously. Our list of active actors, both adult and child, has grown from a mere handful to several hundred.

The Summer Shakespeare Theater

We have witnessed our Summer Shakespeare Theater grow from a small program to one in which every audition-call sees many children arrive and strive for a starring role. The children come to SPAC in Yreka from all over Siskiyou County, their parents willing participants in their childrens’ creative aspirations. Not only does the Summer Shakespeare Theater introduce the youthful actors to the Theater Arts, it also draws in large audiences of children to view their friends’ acting abilities. In so doing, these young audiences are introduced to “live” theater, a valuable learning experience which yields an ongoing support of the theater throughout their future lives.

For the six weeks workshop and final production each summer, SPAC works with the College of the Siskiyous to hire a professional instructor/director. The actors learn many acting skills. Over the years, The Theater has produced thirteen of the Bard’s dramas and comedies. No matter what else happens, the SPAC Board of Directors has always made sure that enough money has been set aside from other major productions during the year to guarantee the Summer Shakespeare Theater will go on.

SPAC Today

In 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 SPAC was given grants by the local branch of Washington Mutual Bank. This generous infusion of funds has greatly helped our local performing arts program. The Washington Mutual funds will help SPAC in the years ahead to develop and produce some exciting performing arts programs.

SPAC is supported by an active group of volunteer performing artists. Everyone involved is encouraged to become a SPAC Member. There is an annual membership fee of $20 for singles and $35 for families. SPAC Members elect a nine person Board which governs the activities and finances of the organization. Board Members serve for two year terms. Come to our performances, events, and Member Meetings. For more information about SPAC, e-mail us at info[at]siskiyou-spac.org

The Siskiyou-SPAC website would appreciate cast members, friends, relatives, audience members who have photos and memories of past SPAC productions to share those items on the website. Contact J.J. Lewis-Nichols, at 468-5329, to submit photos, etc., for the website. This website will exist in its present form ONLY if the website is supplied with information, media, etc., from actors, audience members and supporters of SPAC. If no further material is offered to the website by SPAC members, actors, etal, the website will terminate.

The Siskiyou Performing Arts Center is dedicated to presenting high quality theater arts to regional audiences, to training young performers, and to directing its resources into the education and enrichment of our youth and community.