During a birthday celebration in September 1960 in Sunnyside, Washington, the conversation wandered among topics. Then, someone suggested forming an amateur theater troupe to engage local thespians and entertain area residents. Eileen Holmason and Bev Pfouts seized upon the idea and, with the assistance of other theater and music aficionados, created Lower Valley Musical Comedy Company Inc.
An article in the newspaper of the day stated, “The Lower Valley Musical Comedy Company Inc. has been organized here in Sunnyside for the purpose of presenting amateur entertainment to the people of the Lower Yakima Valley without profit to the company.”
The first officers of the organization were Mrs. John (Eileen) Holmason, president; Don Hughes, vice president, and Mrs. Roger Dickey secretary-treasurer.
The article identified Jack Quinn as “heading the production staff.” Quinn was then manager of Prosser’s lone radio station. The article continued, “He was one of the founders of the Richland Light House Opera Co., in 1948. Before that he had sung with the Light Opera Co. in San Francisco for nine years. Quinn also has experience in summer stock.” Quinn remained active with LVMCC for three decades.
Don Hughes served as LVMCC’s first musical director and continued in that capacity for more than four decades. Stated the 1960 article, Hughes “is the school district music director and directs the Sunnyside High School band. He also has played professionally in dance bands.” After setting down his baton for one year to play a title role, Hughes earned the affectionate nickname “The Music Man.” His wife, June, played the piano for LVMCC/VTC productions for several decades.
The choral director for LVMCC’s first production was Mrs. Oliver Jeffords. The Sunnyside newspaper reported, “She directed the choral groups for the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of Sunnyside, and is musical director of the First Methodist Church.”
Jack Isherwood was the troupe’s choreography. He operated a dance studio in Sunnyside and, said the newspaper, “He has been in several productions in college and summer stock.”
That first production staff worked enthusiastically to stage LVMCC’s first production: the curtains at Sunnyside’s Lincoln School went up on Oklahoma! on March 10, 1961. An “angel,” John Holmason, financed the production to help LVMCC get on its feet.
Throughout the 1960s and late into the 1990s, LMVCC continued to present a large-scale musical comedy each spring in Lincoln School. In the middle-late 1990s, several changes occurred.
Sunnyside School District renovated its high school to include a performing arts “auditorium” and announced plans to eliminate the acting, and storage, space at Lincoln School. VMCC (by then the company had dropped “Lower” from its name) moved its productions to the renovated Sunnyside High School.
A few years later, members began to discuss adding other types of theater to its season. To convey the change, members altered the troupe’s name to Valley Theater Company.
In the early 2000s, VTC began to dabble in non musicals and in some years presented two productions. In 2007, VTC produced a full slate of shows and now presents a four-show season that runs August through mid spring.
VTC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011 – we think we would have made Eileen Holmason and Bev Pfouts proud of what they began!
Valley Theatre Company’s Ticket Outlets are:
- Richland: Adventures Underground, 1391 George Washington Way, Richland, WA 99354, (509) 946-9893
- Benton City: Patnode’s True Value, 600 9th Street, Benton City, WA 99320, (509) 588-3216
- Prosser: Sixth Street Art & Gift Gallery 702 6th St, Prosser, WA 99350, (509) 781-622
- Prosser: Bonnie’s Vine & Gift, 329 Wine Country Rd, Prosser, WA 99350, (509) 786-7000
- randview: Bleyhl Farm Services, 940 Wine Country Rd, Grandview, WA 98930, (509) 882-2248
- Sunnyside: Melange, 2580 East Lincoln Avenue, Sunnyside, WA 98944, (509) 836-2282