July 9 – The local arts scene was buzzing on Tuesday with the announcement of a new community theater company, the Convergence Theater Company (CTC).
In a post shared on Facebook, CTC said it was hiring actors for its opening show, Lisa Loomer’s Roe. “Roe” is based on the historical case of Roe v. Wade on the Supreme Court.
The formation of CTC adds a third option for local performers, recently limited only to Yuba City’s Acting Company, founded in 1984, or Marysville’s Yuba College Theater.
The company was founded by Matt DeMeritt, Crystal DeMeritt, Aaron Watkins and Betsy Johnson. These members have already made a name for themselves in the performing arts world and are eager to expand their passion in the future.
Matt and Crystal DeMeritt met while co-directing the Young People’s Summer Theater Program at Faith Christian School in Yuba City. After their marriage, the couple continued to work on several summer theater and after-school programs throughout Northern California. Now Matt DeMeritt is the artistic director and drama teacher at the Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts (MCAA).
Watkins met the DeMeritts nearly seven years ago when his son attended the Performing and Fine Arts Academy at Natomas Charter School in Sacramento, of which Matt Demeritt was the principal. In the fall of 2020, Watkins volunteered his home, Butte Manor, to use for a haunted house fundraiser for The Acting Company. This “COVID-cautious” event was largely a success, even being featured on Fox 40 News. It was around this time that Watkins Johnson introduced the DeMeritts to one of his outdoor screenings. Johnson has been heavily involved in both Mainstage and Magic Theater productions at The Acting Company and is the proud parent of several MCAA students.
“We realized we all had common interests and goals when it came to our vision for the local arts community, but there just wasn’t much we could do about it at the time,” explained Matt DeMeritt.
As the pandemic measures continued to ease and in light of the current political movements, the group felt that it was finally time to launch and that they could no longer delay their development.
“We tossed the idea back and forth for a while,” DeMeritt said. “Roe” is a play that we thought about, and then after the Supreme Court’s recent decision, we were like, ‘This isn’t a play when we get to it,’ we have to do it now.
Currently, CTC operates as a separate entity under the Yuba Sutter Arts & Culture (YSAC) umbrella and is based at the historic Sutter Theater Center for the Arts in downtown Yuba City at 754 Plumas St. YSAC will fund CTC’s first venture through his most recent American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. CTC said it will use this production to “test” the community and build a support base of actors, volunteers, viewers and other like-minded people.
The company states that its goal is to bring members of the community together to address difficult issues, and its mission is to generate curiosity, awareness and understanding by producing high-quality performances that address important social issues.
The name “Convergence” comes from the desire of its founders to bring different viewpoints into one space.
“We know that our country and our community have become even more polarized in recent years,” said Crystal DeMeritt. “Rather than having meaningful conversations with those who disagree, people are more likely to surround themselves with those they agree with. But here at Convergence, we believe iron makes iron sharp, and it’s good for us to come together and share different perspectives.”
Theater in the most traditional sense only exists when audience and performers share the same space. The immediacy of this actor-audience relationship stimulates a type of dialogue and empathy that the DeMeritts believe is difficult to replicate on other platforms, such as television or social media. Another thing that sets CTC apart is its interest in collaborating and partnering with other community organizations.
For “Roe,” the company said they’ve already begun reaching out to A Women’s Friend, Planned Parenthood, and other groups that support women in dealing with some of life’s most important and controversial issues.
“We want to talk to these organizations about coming out and doing post-show talkbacks or prologues with us to really expand and enhance that conversational experience,” added Matt DeMeritt.
Auditions for “Roe” will be held on Wednesday, July 13 from 6-9 p.m. at the Sutter Theater Center for the Arts. Many roles are available and potential actors should expect the opportunity to play multiple roles. Auditions are open to all members of the public, regardless of their acting experience or political views.
“We don’t want people to assume that we’re going to approach it from one perspective or another,” Crystal DeMeritt explained. “We actually decided on this play when we realized it’s not a divisive play, it might be a divisive issue, but the play itself has a very balanced perspective, the story behind the decision and then the consequences of that and depicting the lives of the people involved.”
“We sincerely hope that people from both sides of this issue will come out and participate in this production so that the conversation isn’t theoretical but is real in the rehearsal room through to the performances themselves,” added Matt DeMeritt.
Going forward, the company will continue to produce pieces relevant to the time and hopes to include more diverse works that highlight people from different social and ethnic backgrounds. Once the group takes root, aspiring playwrights could soon find a home on the CTC network.
“Original works that come from this community would be one of our primary missions,” DeMeritt said. “Betsy Johnson is indeed a person who has done a lot of original writing and I hope that she will bring that role to this organization as we continue to grow.”
While DeMeritt and Johnson run the directing department, Crystal has helped DeMeritt secure copyrights and facilitate communication, while Watkins handles design and marketing.
“We’re still figuring out what role everyone plays in this,” said Matt DeMeritt. “And we know there are people in the community who want to be a part of something like this, we just have to figure out where they all fit in.”
To learn more about Convergence Theater Company, visit Convergencetheatreco.org or call 530-742-2787.