For eight hours every weekday for the past month, a troupe of young actors rehearsed their parts for the play "The Secret Garden."
Then two days before opening night, theater director Trevor Weaver emailed a notice saying that financial troubles forced him to end Stage Kids, the nonprofit performing arts group, and call off the show. The next day, the website was pulled and the phone number disconnected.
The play seemed doomed. But parents and acting teachers, who decided to keep working for free, managed to find two venues for the production Friday and Saturday.
So the show will go on.
But Weaver's vanishing act raises a bunch of questions. Do families that each shelled out hundreds of dollars for the acting program, tickets and other fees get a refund? If the program's money troubles were so bad, why didn't Weaver tell anyone?
Parents said they've always spoken highly of Weaver, who led the 20-year-old nonprofit to turn out high-quality productions that were fun for everyone.
Weaver's bio, which has since been pulled, said he's a veteran performer. It says that as a child, he acted with Johnny Depp on "21 Jump Street."
But that was a few days ago. Now parents say they feel duped, disappointed and angry. They're talking about how to get their money back.
San Ramon resident Sandy Terranova has two daughters, 8 and 5, who have been with Stage Kids for about two years. They both have parts in "The Secret Garden."
Terranova said that Weaver’s letter – sent two days before the play’s opening night – was the first time she and other parents had heard about any financial troubles.
“He kept saying he had a venue and he didn’t – it was like he was just lying to us,” said Terranova. “Everyone was waiting around to hear what venue we were going to perform in and out of nowhere we get this email at 7 or 8 o’clock at night saying the company was dissolved. Here we are two days away from the production and the company is shutting down? I mean it was just devastating.”
Patch sent two emails to Weaver. We also called him. But no one has yet responded.
Not only did Weaver not let on how badly his company had been doing for nearly a year, but he made several program changes seemingly to collect more money before the closure, according to parents.
Jamie Beers, of Danville, said her 8-year-old daughter Carlie burst into tears when she heard that she might not get the chance to play her first big role ever – Martha, the main character’s personal attendant in the play.
Beers and other parents said Weaver pushed them to pay for tickets up front.
And both Beers and Terranova confirmed that Weaver also did something he never had before – he took away the two complimentary tickets the theater had always given to the families of each child in the production.
Several parents agreed that in hindsight it seemed Weaver ramped up marketing for theater camps, sending out email blasts calling for early sign-ups and up-front fees.
“There were emails going out promoting 'Peter Pan' in the fall, 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Winnie the Pooh',” said Terranova. “He was definitely promoting the events up to the very end.”
Also MIA was the professional videographer and photographer that Weaver had historically hired to document the rehearsals and shows so that parents could buy the headshots and videos as keepsakes.
And several parents said they noticed one more odd thing – Weaver’s email to them arrived between 7 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, but the email time-stamp said 10 p.m.
“The email was time stamped for 10 o’clock at night like he was on the east coast or something,” said Terranova. “He was definitely not in California.”
“The Secret Garden” played at 7 Friday at Coyote Creek Elementary School. The next showing is at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Village Theater in Danville.
Snacks and refreshments will be sold and proceeds will go to the play’s teachers and instructors who chose to work for free after the theater group's closure.