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Stand Out Talent breathes life into Tower Theater

Council approves organization as operator of historic downtown venue
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Some patrons of the arts mourned the closure of Civic Theatre West, worried that meant the end of a vibrant performing arts scene in Roseville.

That hasn’t been the case. Roseville Theatre Arts Academy launched in January to focus on children’s theater workshops and performances. On Wednesday, Roseville City Council approved the lease of Tower Theater to Stand Out Talent, an arts production company and training facility.

“We’re 100 percent dedicated to making this a space the community is proud of and wants to use,” said Media Director Jason Bortz. “This is a beautiful space. It’s a privilege to be here.”

His wife, Jennifer Bortz, founded the nonprofit organization. Since opening in May, Stand Out Talent has put on two shows and a concert workshop featuring the piano player from the television show “Glee.”

On a recent afternoon, 10 teenage girls rehearsed for an upcoming rendition of “Godspell,” a 1969 rock musical based on the Gospel of Matthew that tells the story of Jesus and his disciples through a series of comedic sketches.

Stand Out Talent is performing the musical with an all-girl cast. Actress Delany Feener, 15, has known Jennifer Bortz since she started taking voice lessons from her five years ago, and was eager to get involved with the production.

“I love the show so much,” Feener said. “You have freedom. There’s a lot of ad-lib and improvisation.”

During the rehearsal, the girls sang and danced around in gypsy-inspired skirts. Jennifer Bortz danced on the sideline, reminding the young actresses to have “strong arms, shoulders back, (be) confident.”

Olivia Lawrence — a two-year veteran of the stage — has been with Stand Out Talent since its start.

“I like it because you get to know everyone really well,” Lawrence, 14, said. “We haven’t gotten huge yet, so everyone is close.”

In addition to offering live shows, the organization plans to act as a booking agent for Tower Theater, leasing the venue to other groups interested in hosting concerts, film screenings and more.

Stand Out Talent has been like “a horse at a starting gate, racing against our self,” Jennifer Bortz said. Now, with the City Council’s approval, they’re out of that gate.

Jennifer Bortz said the organization will not take out loans or use credit cards to cover expenses, instead building as they can. For instance, they have $100,000 worth of upgrades to theater systems planned, which won’t happen until they’ve raised enough money.

Their goal is to operate an arts organization with smart business practices in mind. Tower Theater’s former occupant Civic Theatre West — better known as Magic Circle Theatre — folded in November, citing $500,000 in debt.

During a brief attempt to revive the defunct 23-year-old theater troupe, some criticized the organization’s management and questioned how Civic Theatre West could accumulate so much debt.

Jennifer and Jason Bortz also want people to know that they hope to expand and unify Roseville’s performing arts community — not compete with existing groups.

Michelle Raskey, president and artistic director of Roseville Theatre Arts Academy, which leases Roseville Theatre, agrees with this sentiment.

“The arts are meant to be enjoyed and experienced by everyone,” Raskey said. “There is plenty of room on Vernon Street for the community of amazing artists in our town and we are excited to see the Tower back in use again. Theater isn’t about competition. It is a way of life.”

Jason Bortz — who has worked as an accomplished actor and filmmaker in Seattle, New York and Los Angeles — said Stand Out Talent will help diversify downtown Roseville, and give residents options for inexpensive evening excursions.

There might be even more of a need for options now that The Alternative Arts Collective, known for its edgy and creative productions, recently relocated from the Royer Arts Center in Royer Park to Sacramento.

Jason Bortz said there’s room for multiple arts organizations to coexist downtown.

“Well, I don’t know if it worked on Broadway,” he said, with a wink. “But we’re willing to try.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Stand Out Talent presents “Godspell”
When:
7 p.m. Friday, July 29, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 30, 2 p.m. Sunday, July 31, 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6
Where: Tower Theater, 417 Vernon St. in Roseville
Cost: $5 students, $12 adults
Info: www.standouttalent.org