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Selma Arts Center could be an example

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webmaster | 10/01/13

Sunday turned into a day of pleasant surprises when a little band of Maderans went to Selma to enjoy a performance of “The Sound of Music” and get a look at Selma’s new arts center.

First, the performance: It was wonderful. The familiar music and the impassioned performances made the ladies in our group shed tears of joy, and the gentleman got a lump in his throat a few times.

Two former Maderans were in the cast: Mim and the Rev. Gary Gould.

Gould is a semi-retired Lutheran pastor now serving a Lutheran church in the Madera Ranchos. Until three years ago, he was pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Madera, where Mim, a retired school teacher, was music director.

The Goulds are both terrific musicians, and have been involved in community theater in Selma for many years. He is a recipient of the C.F. Unger Award, the highest honor the Selma Arts Center confers, for his many performances and for having written three plays himself. Mim also has been in many plays.

In “The Sound of Music,” she was able to use both her dramatic and musical talents in the role of Sister Berthe, a disciplinarian nun who plays against the carefree personality of the postulant nun, Maria, the star of the show played by Hanna Nielsen York of Selma. Gary had a short part as a Nazi admiral who takes the stage near the end of the play.

“They always use me to bring the curtain down,” Gary said, with a wry smile.

The real star of this particular production, however, was Selma’s just-completed Arts Center. “The Sound of Music” was the inaugural production in what will prove to be one of the best theater venues in the Valley.

And guess what — It was built for some $2.5 million, about the same amount of money the Madera County Arts Council has available for its own arts center, thanks to a grant given to the arts council earlier this year by the Elaine Secara Trust.

The Selma facility is a theater that eventually will double as an art gallery, which is a use that suits Selma just fine. It has a long tradition of live theater, which began at the start of the 20th century when showman C.F. Unger built an opera house in the town.

Over the years, various buildings have been used as little theaters in Selma. The opportunity for the new one came along when a few well-timed insurance settlements and a successful fund drive collected the money that paid for the new theater.

“I am proud to report this new theater is paid for,” announced Selma Mayor Ken Grey at the beginning of the program, which happened to be the final performance of the 10-day inaugural run.

The theater sits on a lot in old downtown Selma, right in the middle of a busy night life area. It will seat 264, has a snack bar, a capacious patio and full basement for future expansion and storage.

Madera County Arts Council board members would do well to visit the Selma Arts Center and see what can be done with $2.5 million, a lot of creativity and elbow grease. Mayor Grey said he would see they received a private VIP tour.


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