By Angie Olson
Burbank parish Saint Francis Xavier’s resident theater company celebrates its fifth anniversary this month with its production of The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
Although the company has been officially operating in the church’s Holy Cross Hall for five years, its roots go back two and a half decades to 1987, when director Daniel Roebuck was asked to helm a production of Godspell to raise funds for the Saint Francis Catholic School.
Since then Roebuck has gone on to star in hundreds of television shows and movies, including Matlock, The Fugitive, and Lost. He has recently appeared on Grimm and The Mentalist.
“Imagine how strange it all is; back then I lived in Mission Hills and wasn’t even a member of the parish,” Roebuck reminisced during a recent break in rehearsal. “My friends Tom Rosa and Jim Wiley asked me to help them raise money for the school where Tom’s dad worked. We put on the first show, then followed the next year with the musical Grease.”
“Twenty years later,” Roebuck continued, “my wife Kelly and I were members of the parish and our kids were going to the great school there, so we figured it was time to try it again.”
In 2008 the newly christened company mounted their first production, The Odd Couple. Over the years, The Saint Francis Stage Company has also entertained Burbank audiences with Arsenic and Old Lace, The Foreigner, and The Sunshine Boys.
This homegrown theater company is made up mostly of parishioners, all of whom volunteer their time for this unique experience of community outreach.
“It’s amazing to see it all come together,” Rita Recker, the parish administrator, said. “We are very lucky to have a parish filled with people who love to help. So many people pitch in; most of them don’t actually work in the entertainment business but have learned how to build sets and do every thing else that goes into it.”
Roebuck echoed her sentiment: “Creating these shows is only possible because we are surrounded here with so many people who possess hidden talents. Actors, the set designer [Recker’s husband, Brad], and stage crew were all cultivated out of our pool of parishioners.”
“Don’t let that fool you, though,” added Roebuck. “I can say that so many of my actor friends — who are not generally the most supportive audience — love these shows and are very complimentary on the level of professionalism.”
Opening on Jan. 6, The Man Who Came to Dinner is the company’s biggest show to date. Co-directed by Jesse J. Adams, the show boasts a cast of more than 30 actors, including Chenoa Topash Mitsui, Jim Roope, Pammie Zappia, Milda Dacys, and Roebuck as Sheriden Whiteside.
The Saint Francis Stage Company performs in a transformed Holy Cross Hall at 3801 Scott Rd. in Burbank.
Showtimes are Jan. 6, 7, 13, and 14 at 8 p.m. Matinees are presented on Jan. 8 and 13 at 2 p.m. as well. Tickets are only $14.
There is a special senior citizen matinee ticket price on Friday, Jan. 13, at 2 p.m. All senior tickets are only $10 for that performance.
To reserve tickets or for more information, please call the parish office at (818) 504-4400. You can also find The Saint Francis Stage Company on Facebook.