by Walter M. Mayes,
South Bay Musical Theatre Artistic Director

As we close the books on SBMT’s 61st season, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to reflect on our work, our challenges, and our triumphs in bringing musical theater enjoyment to our patrons during the past year.

When I stepped into the role of Artistic Director, my predecessor had already selected the season. Covid was still affecting us, and we were dealing with staff changes and a dwindling number of board members. With the support of Board Chair Michael Hirsch and the outstanding core of SBMT staff and volunteers, I came on board ready to help SBMT present the “Noteworthy Entertainment” for which we have been known throughout the South Bay.

Rent featured a dynamic cast of predominantly newcomers to SBMT, as well as a staff who had never worked with us in their capacities before. The production was fast-paced, energetic, in-your-face, and full of 90s rock ‘n’ roll touches that delighted a segment of our audience—and kept the rest of them away in droves. Ticket sales were depressingly low for Rent, even after we canceled the last weekend of performances due to Covid. It was an expensive lesson to learn.

A Little Night Music featured a cast and staff working at the top of their game, with gorgeous costumes, projections, and sets. The show was a pleasure to work on, and I am enormously proud of it. Still, ticket sales were not what we hoped.

Mary Poppins had a company that was one of the most enjoyable groups of people to work with I can remember, and the demanding technical aspects of the show necessitated that our staff use all their creativity and style—special commendation to the outstanding costumes of Y. Sharon Peng and projections of Don Nguyen. Audiences loved Mary Poppins, and our ticket sales were strong enough to make me consider that more family-friendly entertainment needs to be part of future seasons.

We instituted ASL-interpreted performances during this past season and will continue to have one for each show as we go forward.

We received a grant from the Saratoga Rotary for sound equipment that enhances our orchestra members’ ability to hear each other and tailor their electronic monitor experience.

We hired Production Manager Karyn Morton, a longtime Bay Area Theater veteran, and her skills at the innumerable details of putting on a show have been put to great use. She is an invaluable member of our team.

Barbara Heninger has taken on the responsibilities of managing our properties inventory in addition to her duties as our historian. Her contributions to SBMT over the years have helped make us strong.

I want to note that one of our most valuable volunteers, former Board Chair Jay Steele, has moved out of the area and is no longer available to help in myriad ways. He has kept SBMT on course for the past 15 years and is greatly missed.

Karyn Morton, Barbara Heninger, Jay Steele, David Mister

Looking forward to the upcoming 62nd season, I am thrilled with our cast and staff of No, No Nanette, a mix of SBMT veterans and newcomers who are a delight to work with. Expect a sparkling and toe-tapping experience when you see it in September.

Upcoming productions of Urinetown and Brigadoon, our Musicals of the Millennium concert, and our two-day fundraiser concert of Titanic: The Musical have already gotten the community talking. Actors love Urinetown and are champing at the bit for auditions (scheduled for September 28), so director David Mister and his staff are assured of a terrific cast. Auditions for the two concerts will be done via video submission; an announcement regarding submissions for those concerts will go out in late summer. Brigadoon will audition in January, and the classic Lerner & Loewe musical will bring back SBMT staff favorites Doug Brook, Esther Selk, Joseph Kelly, and Rachel Michelberg to lead the production.

Doug Brook, Esther Selk, Joe Kelly, Rachel Michelberg

While my goal of helping SBMT do the best shows possible has not and will not change, I have realized that if I don’t find a way to fill our seats, much of the efforts of the talented people who work on our shows will go for naught. If you’ve read this far, and you are a former (or only sometime) attendee of SBMT shows, and you have thoughts about what we could do to bring you back, I’d love to hear from you. You can write me at

One thing I know is that volunteers are essential to making community theatre work. Without the ushers, concessions sellers, set builders, painters, sewers, and folks who show up to help us whenever we need a hand, we would have a difficult time of it. If you can give us the gift of your time to help out in our various areas, click on one of the links on this page of our website, and we will put your talents to good use.

I look forward to seeing you at our shows this coming season!