The Linkville Players, located at the Linkville Playhouse at 201 Main Street in Klamath Falls, Oregon, is the oldest community theater group in the Klamath Basin. It is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization devoted to presenting an annual season of dramatic productions for the benefit and enjoyment of local residents, visitors to the area, and others interested in theater. Together with its predecessor organizations, the Pelican Players and the Klamath Civic Theater, the Linkville Players has been presenting theatrical productions for more than half a century and is recognized for the depth, variety, and quality of its presentations. The theater is known for the “up close and personal” experience it offers, since members of the audience – which seats 118, with 63 orchestra seats, 20 loge seats and 35 balcony seats– are only a few feet away from the actors on the stage. The Linkville Players usually offers four plays and a musical production as part of its regular September-to-June season plus three original children’s plays throughout the year. In addition, various special events, such as reader’s theater, an annual awards night, and occasional summertime or fundraising productions, are presented at various times.
The regular Linkville Players season begins with the opening in mid-September of the first of five productions. This production will have held auditions six to eight weeks prior to its opening date and it will have held rehearsals four nights a week until the last ten days before the opening, when there are nightly rehearsals. As soon as the first production opens, the second production of the season holds auditions and then begins rehearsing four nights a week in the same space in which the first production is running its show on weekends. Thus, the theater space is constantly utilized almost nightly from late July throughout the year to early June!
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Linkville Players’ predecessor organizations played in whatever space that was available at the time of production: the Winema Hotel, the basement of the old City Library – which is now the City Hall at 5th and Klamath Avenue, Sacred Heart Auditorium, and the old armory – which is now the Klamath County Museum, among other places. For a five-year period from 1980 to 1985, the Linkville Players did not have a home and no productions were mounted during that time. But since the mid-1980’s, the Linkville Players’ theater facility has been located in what is known as the Linkville Playhouse at 201 Main Street, which was formerly the “Pine Grove Room” ballroom of the former Willard Hotel, now known as Lake Park Towers, a six story Mission-style building on the northeast corner of 2nd and Main, which was constructed in 1926-27.
Every aspect of the Linkville Playhouse’s theatre space has been constructed or adapted by volunteers who have generously donated their time, talent, money, and continuing efforts to improve the facility and to keep the Linkville Players alive and growing. Just before the 2015/2016 season opened, the theater’s original stage was completely replaced, the sound and light booth was moved back six feet in order to make room for 12 more seats in the center of the balcony. In addition, orchestra seats at audience right were rearranged to provide better sightlines.
The new stage, updated sound booth, additional balcony seats and seating rearrangement are just a few examples of the ways in which the Linkville Playhouse has continued to “reinvent” itself. It does the same thing in production after production by using the same stage space over and over again. The theater’s odd-shaped stage is 35 feet wide and 24 feet deep as measured from the front of the stage through the 15 foot wide proscenium arch. Six feet upstage of the proscenium arch, sightlines begin to be lost to audience members on either side of the theater. With each new production team, this space is redesigned and utilized in a way it has not been used before, reflecting the talents and imaginations of those responsible for a production. It can accommodate a play with only three or four characters or it can present a musical with a piano and several instruments in the musical ensemble along with up to 30 people onstage.
The current backstage of the theater was never intended to be used as an actual backstage area. This formerly cramped and dark space parallels the very steep section of North 2nd Street as it rises from Main to Pine Street. For many years, cast and crew stumbled across a rocky path to make it from one side of the stage to the other. In addition, water seeped down through the rocks and out on the stage! Over the years, volunteers tried to chip away at the exposed bedrock in an attempt to enlarge the area but their efforts were largely unsuccessful. In 1999, thanks to a generous grant from Jeld-Wen, the backstage area was remodeled significantly with rock being removed, a sump pump installed, retaining walls constructed, a stage-level cement floor poured, a tool closet created and a bathroom constructed. These efforts have made a vast difference to the comfort and convenience of the cast and crew when they are “behind-the-scenes” at the Linkville.
Over its more than 50 year history, the Linkville Theater and its predecessor organizations have presented more than 300 productions. Without question, if comedies are king, then mysteries are the queen of theater. Comedies account for more than 50% of productions. In addition, probably because of its proximity to Ashland, the Linkville Theater has never presented a production of Shakespeare, however the theater has mounted a production of The Compleat Works Of Wm. Shakespeare (Abridged). One could say that “we are leaving to Caesar that which is Caesar’s!” However, the Linkville Players have presented several “original” works during its history, including two musicals (Tom Sawyer and Cannon Feathers) along with a number of plays (Tuolomne Telephone And Telegraph, The Actress, Couple Dating, Two-Legged Stool and several others).
Anyone who has worked in the theater knows that it is a very demanding pastime. Curiously enough, very few can adequately explain why they are willing to devote so much of their personal time to such an involvement. Each production, in fact, takes up to a quarter of a year, at least, out of each performer’s lifetime. If you are a director, it takes up to six months of time. But, as anyone involved in theater will tell you, there is no other experience in life like it!