Acclaimed Performing Arts
Rarely does a community attract a cadre of artists and writers without luring actors to town. Since its inception at the turn of the last century, Carmel has been the stage for scenic beauty playing across the landscape, its curtain rising with the sun and setting, moments after the signature green flash on the horizon at sunset, as night falls across the stage.
To foster the arts in early Carmel, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club was formed in 1905. A year later, the club built the town's first cultural center and theater, The Carmel Arts & Crafts Clubhouse. Poets Mary Austin and George Sterling often performed their works there. The site continues today as the historic Golden Bough Playhouse, owned and operated by Carmel's Pacific Repertory Theatre. The facility includes the 330-seat Golden Bough and 99-seat Circle theaters, presenting more than 175 performances in Carmel every year.
Five years after the Arts and Crafts Club was established, local actors took their inspiration into the forest, creating the oldest outdoor community theater west of the Rockies. Built in a stand of pine and cypress trees, the Forest Theater was the brainchild of Mary Austin, author of The Arrowmaker, who first suggested the community theater in 1908. Supported by poet and dramatist Herbert Heron and author Michael Williams, Austin shared her vision of an open-air theater where plays could be produced by locals, who also would have fun acting, directing, lighting, costuming, and staging. Nearly a century later, the theater is renowned for stage and film productions, including works of Shakespeare, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Elton John, Tim Rice, and many others.
What began as the local school on the edge of town, Carmel's Sunset School had an artistic vision in 1931 that led to construction of a new auditorium, whose Gothic-inspired architecture made it the finest assembly hall in the region, with seating for 700. It frequently doubled as a performing-arts venue for the community. Carmel finally bought the school complex in 1964 and converted the auditorium into the Sunset Theater, the town's cultural hub.
More than 40 years later, and following a $21.4 million renovation, the new Center, which reopened in 2003 to host the 66th annual Carmel Bach Festival, has become an architecturally spectacular, acoustically transparent venue worthy of such performers as Wynton Marsalis and his jazz ensemble, Lyle Lovett, k.d. lang, Jose Carreras, the Vienna Boys Choir, and the Monterey County Symphony Orchestra.
Whether you come for the clear light and scenic beauty, the spectacular shopping and spa services, the fine wines and fantastic dining, or to visit Grandma, once the sun sets and the sidewalks roll up, your Carmel experience just won't be complete without a little night music.