The Village Theatre
Author: Marco Danzetti
Historically the center of Danville life since 1873, the building that houses The Village Theatre at 233 Front St. continues to serve as the heart of the community through performing arts, visual arts, and special events. The structure has gone through numerous iterations, starting as a one-story farmers’ hall, transforming into a two-story community center, and serving as a movie theater and a church. Despite its historic roots, the building was slated for demolition, but saved to become a popular performing arts center.
Today The Village Theatre’s stage comes alive year-round with plays performed by the Role Players Ensemble, improv by the Trapped in a Rumor Improv Comedy group, and a long-running cabaret show called Victoria’s Reel Blondes. The Danville Childrens Musical Theatre introduces children to the stage through participation in plays and musicals. For the wee ones, there’s the Preschool Performance Series, featuring fun and educational shows.
In September the theater hosts the Eugene O’Neill Festival, paying homage to the Nobel Prize winning playwright, one of Danville’s most famous residents. The weekend includes lectures, art shows, musical performances and a fundraising reception for the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, which assists the National Park Service in maintaining Tao House, O’Neill’s home in the Danville hills from 1937-1944.
The theater’s lobby is home to a fine arts gallery with rotating shows of art including paintings, watercolors, illustrations, sculptures, glasswork, and photographs. The gallery is open Wednesdays through Fridays, 12-5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and one hour before performances. Access is also available by appointment on Mondays and Tuesdays.
You can rent the 245-seat theater and adjoining gallery for special events. The theater often hosts recitals, weddings, movie screenings, graduations and more. Included in the price of the rental are a full theatrical lighting system, sound system, dressing rooms, projector and screen, and even an experienced technician.
Despite being such an important focus of community life, the building nearly met destruction in 1987, after the Town of Danville purchased the property and considered replacing it with a parking lot. Fortunately, the community rallied to save the historic hall. Volunteers helped spruce up the place and make necessary repairs; donations flowed in to supplement Town monies.
The two-story structure was actually a single story building constructed in 1873 as the town’s Grange Hall, an important organization for local farmers. The hall was an instant center of community life where residents from all over San Ramon Valley gathered for meetings and celebrations. In 1912 three community groups, the Grange, the Odd Fellows, and its sister group, the Rebekahs, banded together to expand the hall. The first floor was hoisted up and rotated 90 degrees, so that a new floor could be constructed underneath. The bigger facility was a hit, becoming the site of meetings, dances, parties, plays and musicals for many years through World War II. In 1969 the building was purchased by a private owner, turning it into a movie theater. In 1980 it became a church, eventually being sold to the Town of Danville in 1987.