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Harriet Schlader

Photo by Kathy Kahn

Harriet Schlader, a founder and Managing Director for Woodminster Summer Musicals, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her 50 years of work at the historic Woodminster Amphitheater. Harriet and her late husband, Jim Schlader, co-founded the Oakland nonprofit corporation Producers Associates, Inc. in 1967, and the organization has been producing the Woodminster Summer Musicals in historic Woodminster Amphitheater ever since, celebrating its 50th season in 2016.

Woodminster Amphitheater, home to the Woodminster Summer Musicals, is an open-air performance facility in Joaquin Miller Park, high in the Oakland hills. The park's spectacular views and serene woodsy environment made it the perfect setting for the amphitheater, with cascades, a reflecting pool, and paths that were originally built as a WPA project in 1939–40. For many East Bay families, it is a long-standing summer tradition to enjoy a picnic in the park and then see a musical at Woodminster, and some season ticket holders have been sitting in the same seats for three generations.

As the anchor tenant in this historic city facility, Producers Associates has maintained and improved Woodminster Amphitheater while honoring the history of the site and bringing more than 20,000 ticket holders to Joaquin Miller Park each summer to enjoy a musical under the stars in a landmark amphitheater. To make it easier for Oaklanders to enjoy live theater, the organization offers half-price tickets to Oakland residents on opening nights, half-price group rates to local organizations, and a “Kids Come Free” program for children and teens 16 years and younger.

With the help of a hardworking board of directors, the organization helps the city's Parks & Recreation Department maintain the facility as an historic site, while at the same time making it safer, more accessible, and more comfortable for patrons. Native plants have been restored around the picnic tables, seating and handrails have been added, and technological improvements have been introduced. In outward appearance, the amphitheater looks very much as it did decades ago, but it is now a more comfortable destination for modern audiences.

Over the last 50 years, Producers Associates has presented 157 productions, entertaining about a million Woodminster Summer Musicals ticket holders. The shows have been performed by more than 5,000 actors, over 20 percent of them members of Actors Equity Association, making the organization one of the Bay Area's most reliable employers of professional actors. The musicals have always been performed with live professional orchestras, which have included 23 different conductors and more than 1,800 members of Musicians Local #6. In addition, the organization has employed 25 professional set designers, 17 lighting designers, 24 costume designers, 6 sound technicians, 18 choreographers, 6 directors, and more than 1,500 young backstage interns.

For more information about the Woodminster Summer Musicals and Producers Associates, Inc., visit www.woodminster.com.