While Dell’Arte is an internationally recognized institution that has presented great theatre in Blue Lake and around the world since 1977, we’ve also been offering arts and community service to our regional communities from Garberville to Forks of Salmon, Petrolia to Cave Junction. We’d love to introduce you to all the work we do offstage and on, throughout our region.

–Joan Schirle, Founding Artistic Director

In addition to being an international center for performance, training, and research for over 35 years, Dell’Arte has been active in community building, service, education, community-based productions, classes, benefits, and many service-related activities. Scroll down to see all the Community Arts projects and partners that DAI is involved with!

In 2012, DAI was awarded a 3-year, $225,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to to support the expansion of our rural arts programs and increase participation opportunities for communities throughout the northcoast region of California. The grant supported projects like our students’ Rural Residency program, The Dell’Arte Company’s free annual holiday show tour, and our MFA’s Community Based Arts Projects.


In 2013, DAI was awarded a $350,000 grant from ArtPlace America www.artplaceameri… to support the creation of the Mad River Industrial Art Park. Through curated programs, free public events, mini-grants to Blue Lakers for community enhancement, and the expansion of its Mad River Festival, Dell’Arte connected art, industry, and cultural work to promote economic development in the city. This project was also supported by the California Arts Council, Headwaters, and local sponsors. A record of grant activities, blog, and photos is at

“Theatre of Place”

The Dell’Arte Company’s first touring production in 1977, “The Loon’s Rage,” pioneered ‘theatre of place,” a concept based on local themes, issues and characters. In addition to original works created for international festivals, experimental productions, and adaptations, the Company continues to generate locally based work each year. In 2010, DAI celebrated Blue Lake’s centennial with an original opera, “Blue Lake, The Opera,” and 2011-12’s “Mary Jane: The Musical” explored the chief economic engine of our region: marijuana.

Blue Lake’s annual Annie & Mary Day

Each year we join with the City of Blue Lake to provide a centerpiece for the annual Blue Lake festival, Annie & Mary Day. A parade with samba band leads the crowd through the town to the local park. Our contributions to this community event since 1979 have included float-making workshops, maskmaking, the staging of a colorful pageant in front of the DAI building, always with a local theme; presenting a Fiddle Contest; producing the day’s entertainment; creating giant Annie & Mary puppets.

The Community-Based MFA Project

Since 2007 Third-year MFA students spend seven weeks serving local non-profit organizations by developing theatre pieces in non-traditional venues, with the goal of assisting the non-profit in its objectives. Among the non-profits whose members participated in projects served by the MFA’s:

• The Breast Cancer Awareness Project
• The Raven Project (recovering meth-addicted teens)
• The Silvercrest Senior Residence
• The Brainstormers: Making Headway (brain injured adults)
• Pelican Bay Speaks/KHSU, from writings of inmates of Pelican Bay State Prison
• The Emma Center, women’s center for survivors of trauma and abuse
• Timber Ridge Senior home, “The Body Remembers”–a play with oral histories
• HCAR (Humboldt Community Acess & Resources)
• “Rails to Trails” Project
• CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers)
• HSU Student Health Center
• RCAA (Redwood Community Action Agency)
• Humboldt County Youth Services Bureau
• “Launchpad,” temporary shelter for homeless youth
• MARZ Project, an after-school youth program hosted by Ink People
• Humboldt Childcare Alliance, Healthy Families
• Hospice of Humboldt
• Humboldt Coalition for Compassionate Care
• Blue Lake Elementary School
• Blue Lake Family Resource Center
• Food For People
• Student Community Service

From serving breakfast at the local Mad River Grange hall, to clowning for children at an elementary school fundraiser, to planting native flora in a marsh restoration project, students fulfill required community service hours (12 hours for PTP and MFA 1 students, 6 hours for MFA2 and MFA3 students) in a variety of ways.

The Rural Residency

Students in the one-year Professional Training Program end their year of studies with a Rural Residency. Two isolated communities are chosen each year to host a group of about 15 DAI students for a 10 day residency. The students in turn create a show for the community and offer workshops to children and adults. The communities of Bridgeville, Petrolia, Forks of Salmon, Orleans, Whale Gulch (Mendocino County) Spring Valley (Lake County) and Takilma, OR have benefited from this innovative and unique program. In 2010 the students assisted Yurok tribal member Willard Carlson in developing an off-the-grid site for traditional healing at Ah-Pah Creek. Special thanks to our sponsors and friends at the California Arts Council for their continued support.

Free Holiday Show & Canned Food Drive

With the help of local business sponsors, Dell’Arte has provided over 25 years of free professional touring shows to the entire Northcoast Region. Local food banks are the beneficiaries, as audience bring a canned food item as their admission ‘ticket.’

Local Partnerships

DAI collaborates with other organizations like The Ink People, with whom we co-sponsor the annual “Maskibition;” the Humboldt Folklife Festival, co-hosted annually in DAI’s Rooney Amphitheatre; the Arcata Playhouse; Humboldt County Days, spotlighting local businesses, local products and local artists.

Civic Engagement

Over many years DAI artists and staff have volunteered as individuals for local citizen governance positions on groups such as the Blue Lake Parks and Rec, the Blue Lake Planning Commission, the Blue Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Blue Lake Museum Society, the PTA, and others.

Blue Lake Elementary School

This program provideds drama education for the kindergarten and 8th grade classes at the Blue Lake Elementary School, culminating in annual public performances of each class in DAI’s Carlo Theatre. Funding support for the 8th grade show came from Humboldt Sponsors in 2013.

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

Launched in 2006, the President’s Honor Roll annually recognizes institutions of higher education for their commitment to and achievement in community service. Honor Roll schools reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. DAI was first named to the Honor Roll for 2009, and in 2011 was named to the 2010 President’s Honor Roll With Distinction.

Dell’Arte Goes Solar

Through funding from All Points North Foundation in 2016, Dell’Arte installed Solar Panels to offset our energy use by 70%. This sustainability effort serves not only as an example to our local community, but to non-profit arts organizations around the nation. Read more about the Solar Panels Project here.


The annual Blue Lake Pageant

For 10 years DAI joined with the City of Blue Lake to provide a pageant centerpiece for the annual Blue Lake festival, Annie & Mary Day.


This program provided curriculum-based drama education and in-service classes for teachers at the Blue Lake Elementary School. The program began as a pilot project chosen by the National Endowment as one of six in the nation in 1991; BLUES served our local school for 18 years.

D.A.Y.A. (Dell’Arte Youth Academy)

For 15 years DAI offered a two week summer program for young people, offering workshops in acting, playwriting, improv, physical comedy, commedia, and more.

Education Through Art

Twelve years of providing instructors with curriculum-based drama education and project direction at local schools: Fieldbrook School, Burnt Ranch, Trinidad, Big Lagoon, Sunset, Pacific Union, Sunnybrae Elementary, Jacoby Creek, Penninsula Schools.

The Mobile Mask Project

As part of Dell’Arte’s annual Mad River Festival, for many years DAI sent its ‘Mobile Mask Unit” to events throughout Humboldt County. At fairs, churches and community centers, the unit provided the materials – clay, paper, paints – so that anyone could learn to make a mask. More than 500 masks were made each year, which were then distributed for free to participants in DAI’s Blue Lake Pageant.


Our files are stuffed with letters of thanks from sponsors of benefits, local causes, schools, community centers, etc. where the service of DAI artists and students has been a contributor to the success of events, or money was raised for worthy causes, or a public place was enlivened by the presence of DAI performers.

For an overview of DAI’s 30-year relationship to its community, check out:

“Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the United States.” by Jan Cohen-Cruz, Rutgers UP, 2005: 103, 115, 116-117, 153-158, 192.

or find many online articles at the Community Arts Network: Reading Room (Archived at Indiana University):
• Leonard, Robert H. “Damn Good Theater – What It Is And How To Get It in Blue Lake, California: Thoughts on The Dell’Arte Company” Oct. 2002
• Cohen-Cruz, Jan. “The Ecology of Theater-in-community: A Field Theory.” Oct. 2002
• Performing Communities: Introduction, Nov. 2002
• Schirle, Joan. “Walking the Talk: Artists connecting with community.” Mar. 2000
• Leonard, Robert H. “Performances at the Festival of Ensemble Theatres.” Aug. 1999

The Dentalium Project, Dell’Arte

• Project Overview
• O’Quinn, Jim “Notes on Wild Card”
• Rooks, David. “To save paradise they put up a parking lot”
• Lewis, Ferdinand. “The Arts and Development: An Essential Tension”
• Fields, Michael. “A response to the essays”