Polly Klaas Theater Reopening Features Casa Grande Choir


On Western Avenue, past Petaluma Market, a charming red building is home to the Polly Klaas Community Theater, originally built as a church. The church was built in 1911 and is a historic part of Petaluma’s West side. In 1994, the building was dedicated in remembrance of Polly Klaas and her love of the performing arts. 

Polly Klaas’ tragic kidnapping and subsequent death in 1993 brought national attention to Petaluma.Shortly after, the Polly Klaas Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to children’s safety, was formed. The building fell into disrepair over time, but a renovation effort was started in May 2021. With the help of the community, the theater was restored to its original glory. 

The grand reopening of the theater was celebrated with a series of shows with local performing arts organizations, including the Casa Grande Choir. On Nov. 5th, an evening performance opened with local music from Sebastian St. James, featured dancers from the O’Brien’s Center for the Arts, Sonoma County poet Laureate Ella Wen, Alchemia Theater performers, the Gaucho Choir, Ballet Folklorico, and soloist Lydia Louviere. 

The theater’s 110-seat capacity makes for an intimate community venue that promotes a shared love for local arts. For the grand reopening performance, the venue was packed with supporters. In the green room, theater performers, dancers, and Casa’s choir huddled together to warm up. Their confidence in the performance was high, as the choir had already performed their set twice at the theater. A group of friends posed for the camera backstage, excited to perform for the final show of the night.

Casa Grande’s Choir performed a similar set to their Sights and Sounds performance. Conducted by Casa Grande Music director Sean Millard and accompanied by pianist Lauren Hale, the choir began with the national anthem: a strong and clear rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The choir added a vibrant Kenyan worship song, Hakuna Mungeu Kama Wewe to their set. After, they continued with a Mozart chorale, Ave Verum Corpus, which complemented the high ceiling and stained glass windows of the renovated church. A rousing American folk song titled “Cindy” closed the set to the roaring sound of applause.

Millard shared a personal story from Casa Grande Choir’s history. In 1993, at Polly Klaas’ memorial service, members of the Casa Grande Choir performed in honor of Klaas. Almost 30 years later, the choir had returned to a theater dedicated to her memory: the choir’s impact had made its way full-circle.

The Casa Grande Choir has had a semester full of performances. In October, they were invited to perform at the historic post office renaming and performed at Casa Grande’s Sights and Sounds event. They are now working towards their Winter Concert performance in December.

The grand reopening of the Polly Klaas theater was a success for the Petaluma performing arts community. The venue is sure to provide an easy, accessible stage for young artists and organizations. Casa Grande Choir’s feature had a varied set and wonderful reception. It was yet another stellar performance from the class  — more so against the backdrop of the newly reopened historic building. A true tribute to Polly Klaas’ love of theater and performance, the theater is the culmination of many community members’ work in creating a place for the Petaluma community to come together with a love and appreciation for visual and performing arts.