For fifty years, Woodminster Summer Musicals has staged productions at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, a 500-acre expanse in the Oakland Hills with redwood groves, trails and stunning Bay views.
After careers on the Broadway stage, Schlader and her late husband, Jim, joined forces with Carl Noble and Jerry Stollar to form Oakland Theatrical Productions, and signed on to run the summer musicals at Woodminster in 1967.
The company produced its first show, South Pacific, in 1967. Jim Schlader passed away in 2010 at age 96, but today, his son, Joel, carries on the family tradition as the company’s artistic director.
Oakland’s longest continually-running live theater ensemble, Woodminster presents three musicals each season. This year’s offerings included Mamma Mia, South Pacific, and Beauty and the Beast, which runs through Sunday, September 10.
The nonprofit has a yearly budget of $750,000, said Harriet Schlader, who still serves as managing director.
Although the 2,000-seat amphitheater is used by other local organizations, such as San Francisco's Lamplighters, Oakland Ballet, and Oakland Symphony, “the infrastructure of the facility has not been maintained by the city,” she added.
Woodminster Amphitheater was constructed by the Works Projects Administration, a federal program created during the Great Depression to support civil infrastructure development.
Many of the trees surrounding the amphitheater were planted by Joaquin Miller, the writer and poet who owned the land in the late 1800s. The amphitheater and an artificial waterfall were “dedicated to California Writers around 1941,” said Schlader.
The park and theater could use some sprucing up, said Schlader, but city administrators “have many challenges, and this theater is not at the top of the list.”
After Woodminster Summer Musicals completes its season, Sundays in the Redwoods, a jazz concert series, will commence on September 17th.
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