Wine, romance and live community theatre in intimate venue
Since planting in 1991 and their first crush in 2002, Larry and April Gomez have witnessed the steady growth of their small, family-owned Via Vega Vineyard and Winery. Now, thanks to some creative design work, a portion of the Via Vega wine barrel room has undergone a bit of a re-haul to make room for the Double Playhouse, opening February 21 with the newly-formed Wine Country Theatre company’s debut production, It Had to Be You.
Visitors to Via Vega have come to expect the unexpected when they walk in the door. A life size skeleton adorned in serapes greets visitors; a 16-foot altar celebrating Dia de los Muertos and, not to be missed, the Vega-Tron – a giant movie screen that rotates showing of various movies, baseball happenings or maybe even some Pink Floyd. April points to a 1952 Airstream Tiki Bar in the middle of the tasting room, saying, “Everyone loves the Airstream, we take it out to special events as well.”
All these touches and more make Via Vega unique. And now the Gomez’ have added one more unique twist – the Double Playhouse. April points out that nearly everything associated with Via Vega has a dual meaning and the playhouse is no exception.
“Our wine club is called the Bullpen,” says April, “and Larry named his stage the Double Playhouse as a reference to baseball and theater.”
Upon doing a bit of research, she discovered more double meanings – there is a connection to wine and theatre in Greek Mythology. Dionysus was the god of Wine and Theater; tragedy and comedy were often presented to the god as a form of worship.
“Most of the great Greek plays were initially written to be performed at the feast of Dionysus,” says April. “One of the symbols of Dionysus was wine barrels, so it is fitting that we are presenting theatre in an intimate setting surrounded by wine aging in oak barrels.”
It Had to be You
And now, on a stage forged from repurposed wine barrel racks, Wine Country Theatre will perform the debut production of the romantic comedy It Had to Be You at Via Vega Winery’s Double Playhouse on Friday and Saturday evenings, opening February 21 and running through March 16.
Described by Anthony as a “hilarious and delightful romantic comedy,” the play features Kristen Saunders in the role of Theda Blau, a failed B-movie actress, health food nut, and would-be playwright looking for love and success in New York. She meets Vito Pignoli, a TV commercial producer and director played by David Norum, at an audition for a commercial.
Following a romantic encounter, Theda holds Vito hostage in her apartment where, despite their differences, and the fact that Vito thinks Theda is crazy, the two are drawn together. With a bit of ‘persuasion’ Theda manages to convince Vito to be her partner both on and off the stage; eventually, love prevails.
“Performing live, in front of an audience, in the intimate setting of the tasting room, is unique to this area,” says Anthony. “Everything will play out within inches of the audience, there is no curtain or formal entrance; we bring the actors and the audience together.”
All proceeds from ticket sales go directly to Wine Country Theatre, according to April, who is passionate about supporting the local community theatre company.
“To be able to see a live performance, in an intimate setting – these performers give you two hours of their time up on stage – there’s nothing that compares,” says April.
April envisions putting on several shows a year at Via Vega and, although It Had to be You is strictly an adult affair for “the wine crowd,” she has hopes on bringing family-friendly shows and musicals to the stage as well. The Gomez’s daughter, Ella, 9, is an aspiring stage actress, having performed in local productions of Oliver, South Pacific and Wizard of Oz. Their son Sam, 10, has taken an interest in being a stage hand and will be learning how to run the lights.
“We are a family winery, with kids and dogs hanging around, so of course they are part of the theatre plans as well,” says April. “In fact, Ella’s involvement with theatre inspired us to build our own stage; now we are able to share our love of theatre with the entire community. We hope this debut production will be well-received so we can continue putting on shows.”
More about Wine Country Theatre
Wine Country Theatre was founded by Cynthia Anthony, a familiar face on the local arts education scene who has been “doing all things theatrical for over thirty years” and has no plans to ever stop. Although acting is Cynthia’s first love, and she has performed throughout the county for over 25 years, she is “thrilled” to be directing and producing Wine Country Theatre. With her newest venture, Cynthia’s vision is to develop a community of theatre artists dedicated to the enrichment and entertainment of Paso Robles and beyond.
Managing Director Jacob Shearer is an established performer, director and producer of theatre on the Central Coast who has toured Europe as a singer and continues to sing at local events and churches. He attends Cuesta College and is working towards earning a degree in Opera Performance.
Wine Country Theatre presents It Had to Be You at the Via Vega Winery’s Double Playhouse on Friday and Saturday evenings, opening February 21 and running through March 15. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show starts promptly at 7:30 p.m. Ages 21 and over please; $25 per person, $5 discount for Bullpen wine club members; wine, soda, coffee, tea, cheese platters and dessert available before and after show and during intermission; no outside food or drink allowed. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit viavega.com, call the Via Vega tasting room at (805) 423-2190 or Cynthia Anthony at (805) 610-0786.
More about Via Vega
Owner and winemaker Larry Gomez got into the wine business at a young age; he had a vineyard up in Napa and has worked at Wild Horse Winery, J. Lohr Winery and Lockwood Vineyard. The Via Vega estate vineyard is planted to 11 varieties on 15 acres and specializes in warm-climate varietals; a Pinot Noir from sourced grapes is also offered. Larry decided to plant all the varietals that entertained him through a long life of wine production and says it takes all the varietals to have a true wine experience.
Stop by for a visit and meet Larry and April, the mom and pop of the shop. The couple does the farming, the events, the management; their kids entertain and help as do a couple of winery dogs.
The Via Vega tasting room is open Friday and Saturday, 11a.m.-4 p.m. and most Sundays 11 a.m.-3 p.m., additional hours and private tastings by appointment. Located at 2378 Adobe Road in Paso; take Hwy 46 East to Airport Road, turn left on Adobe Road and continue to “where the pavement ends.” Visit viavega.com or call (805) 423-2190 for more information.
— Meagan Friberg