Upstage finds permanent home on MVCPA SecondStage

Photo courtesy of Upstage Theater
Upstage Theater, a local student-run troupe, recently secured status as the resident company at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts’ SecondStage. Past Upstage Theater productions include “Heathers: The Musical,” pictured here.

Upstage Theater, the local student-run company, now has a permanent home in Mountain View.

The city last month approved Upstage as the resident company at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts’ SecondStage.

“We’re investing in a long-term relationship with them,” said Scott Whisler, executive director of MVCPA. “We’ve already done shows with them, so it made sense.”

Launched in 2015 by two high school sophomores, Upstage has called SecondStage home since its first production, “Heathers: The Musical,” that year.

“Having worked at MVCPA before, I knew how beautiful the space was and admired the black-box feeling within SecondStage,” Upstage co-founder Julie Garber said.

Garber and fellow founder Jessa Mellea applied last year to make SecondStage their troupe’s official home. Whisler said the application process for a resident company is more rigorous than the one for using the stage on a one-time basis, requiring approval from the Performing Arts Committee, which is appointed by the city council.

MVCPA is already home to TheatreWorks and Peninsula Youth Theatre, which primarily use the larger MainStage. Both companies have performed there for more than two decades.

As a SecondStage home company, Upstage Theater will be accorded booking priority as well as a discount for using the space, according to Whisler. Since its first show, Garber said Upstage has been entirely funded through ticket sales and donations.

“All the money we make funnels into our future shows, and with home company status, the hope is to make the budgets for each of our shows that little bit larger, so we can really bring the ideas all the students have to light,” she said.

As the first SecondStage home company, Whisler said Upstage Theater is paving the way for more companies to follow.

Whisler described Upstage’s team as “professional” and “so on top” of what they need.

“It’s easier working with these kids than some of our other clients,” he added.

Because it’s entirely student-run, with the exception of an adult arranging contracts for legal purposes, Garber said Upstage appre:ciates the mutual trust between the city and her theater company.

“It’s hard to find people who will trust you with such immense responsibility, and MVCPA did just that,” she said.

Passing the baton

Garber and Mellea are both experienced performers who mainly remain behind the scenes in their roles with Upstage.

“My whole life I had known myself as a performer, but entering high school, I found myself interested in working behind the scenes,” Garber said. “I searched for ways to make this dream come to life, and within a year, I had created my own company.”

Upstage draws its participants from approximately 10 Bay Area schools, including Fusion Academy in Palo Alto, Woodside High, Sequoia High, The Nueva School, Hillsdale High and San Mateo High.

With Mellea and Garber heading off to college next fall, they will be passing the baton to high school junior Nico Poler, who is directing “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” scheduled this weekend.

“Hopefully the structure we have built over the years will allow him to pass the company down again,” Garber said.

SecondStage also hopes to expand its home companies. Upstage signed a one-year contract with an option for renewal for a period of three to five years.

For more information on Upstage, visit

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