A State Fair Farewell

CVTG stages its last production at historic State Theatre

Haley Wright, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THE final bows. Eau Claire’s State Theatre is nearing the end of its final season this summer. The last Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild production there will be State Fair, which premiers June 28.
THE final bows. Eau Claire’s State Theatre is nearing the end of its final season this summer. The last Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild production there will be State Fair, which premiers June 28.

The final Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild performance at the State Theatre – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair – will debut June 28 and run through July 1. There are more than 50 people working on this production, including many who came back for the opportunity to work the guild’s last show at the State Theatre. While nostalgic for the State Theatre and 30 years of CVTG performances there, the group is looking forward to future performances at the Pablo Center at the Confluence, which opens this fall.

“I wanted to be in show because it’s saying goodbye to something that has been a real treasure for us.”– Bob Carr, founding member of the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, on his role in State Fair

The guild was formed on May 19, 1981, when 50 local people showed up at the Eau Claire Parks and Rec building and raised $60 from passing a hat to launch a theater guild. Initially the group put on performances in the old Central Junior High Auditorium (now the Eau Claire School District administration building), and then in the North High School Auditorium. Due to tremendous growth, a need for additional space arose and the group put on its first performance at the State Theatre – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – on April 28, 1988. Members of the group were instrumental in restoring the State Theatre, which had previously been a vaudeville theater and then a movie theater. The theater was closed for nearly a decade prior to its acquisition by the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council and use by the CVTG.

Bob Carr, a founding member of the CVTG and voiceover performer for State Fair, said getting the State Theatre ready for CVTG performances 30 years ago was a treat for any theater person. He remembers working hard and fundraising to restore the theater to the working space it is now, but he also really enjoyed exploring the old theater and uncovering Eau Claire theater relics and history during the process.

Due to his age, Carr is not actively doing shows anymore, but was moved to get back out there for this performance of State Fair. “I wanted to be in the show because it’s saying goodbye to something that has been a real treasure for us,” he said. “I love the old building – (it’s) just not usable for what we need.”

Ann Sessions, executive director of the CVTG, said this last show at the State Theatre will be an extra-special performance, and that the show – State Fair – was aptly chosen. “It makes sense that we would do a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical for our last production at the State,” she said. “Thirty years ago, the State Theatre opened with the Theatre Guild’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella! There are a lot of memories attached with this last production. In fact, some people auditioned just to be in the last CVTG show at the State.” Sessions said the show has a little something for everyone, including comedy, romance, and well-known songs such as “It’s A Grand Night For Singing,” “Our State Fair,” and “It Might As Well Be Spring.”

The CVTG will begin performing shows at the Pablo Center next season and has a lot of exciting things planned for the future. “The Theatre Guild is excited to produce some great musicals at The Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center at the Confluence,” Sessions said. Their 38th season includes the Tony Award-winning musical, Fun Home; the ABBA song-filled Broadway musical, Mamma Mia!; and Footloose. “The new Jamf Theatre will give us the opportunity to tell these wonderful stories in more interesting and effective ways,” she continued. “That will make it great for both audiences and performers!”

Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild presents State Fair • 7:30pm June 28-30, 1:30pm July 1 • The State Theatre, 316 Eau Claire St., Eau Claire • $22 general admission, $10 students •(715) 832-7529 • cvtg.org

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