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Season-Opening Performance On Stage At Hutton’s Hamlet
Hutton's Hamlet
The husband-wife team of Richard and Annette Hutton are still running Hutton’s Hamlet Performing Arts Center, going strong for 20 years. Annette serves as accompanist for the series of summer productions. Marg Jackson/The Times - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

Twenty years ago, Richard and Annette Hutton first thought about putting on a youth theater production. Little did they know then that it would still be going strong two decades later.

Giving hundreds of kids from Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and beyond the opportunity to try their hand at theater, the summer series this year at Hutton’s Hamlet in Oakdale will kick off with the first performance on Friday and Saturday, June 8 and 9.

Participants spend two weeks working on each play, going through intensive training and getting ready to put on a full-scale production.

This summer, five separate plays will be offered through Hutton’s Hamlet Performing Arts Center, a converted church the couple bought specifically with theater in mind. The center at 132 W. G St., Oakdale, seats about 80 people. Tickets to the performances are $10 for adults and $5 for ages 12 and under, and can be purchased at Hutton’s Hamlet Music Store, 149 Church Ave., Oakdale, just around the corner from the Performing Arts Center.

The Snow White Musicapalooza! is the first production; showtimes are Friday, June 8 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, June 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The show is billed as a “musical extravaganza with something for everyone.” The audience becomes the live studio audience on a talk show, Real Talk with Fairytale Legends, where the seven dwarves tell the story of Snow White, and the Fairytale Players bring it to life.

Longtime director and accompanist Annette Hutton said there are between 25 to 35 people in each cast; age of participants ranges from 7 to 20-years-old and there are no auditions. Those taking part in the summer workshops pay a $200 fee and are then enmeshed in the world of theater for their two-week experience.

“We have done as many as seven and we’ve done as few as one,” Annette said of putting on the summer productions.

When they first got started with the workshops, students did it all, from building the sets to finding their own costumes, even procuring props. Over the years, though, the summer series has added some professionals for lighting, sound effects and more, allowing the students to focus more on the production itself.

“Performance values have increased a lot,” Annette said.

Richard was busy over the last several months with on site improvements and the center was repainted, freshening it up prior to the new season.

Most of the shows are roughly two-hour productions, with 45 minutes to an hour for each half, as well as a brief intermission.

Rehearsals for the first summer production got started the day after Memorial Day.

Also on the summer schedule are: Pride and Prejudice, a comic adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23; Rockin’ Robin Hood, on Friday, July 6 and Saturday, July 7; The Hound of the Baskervilles with a twist in the plot having the nieces of Holmes and Dr. Watson solve a murder while their uncles are on vacation, Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21; and the season finale is a musical, Lucky Lucky Hudson, featuring a teenage writer of a detective novel getting trapped in his own story, set for Friday, Aug. 3 and Saturday, Aug. 4.

“It’s pretty intense but very fun,” Annette said of the summer series. “I’m a person with a short attention span so two weeks works well for me.”

Each summer theater workshop runs 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday for two weeks, finishing with the three performances.