Even though Spotlight Theatre isn't producing any shows of its own at the moment, it doesn't mean the stage is dark, says Peggy Darling, who heads the nonprofit organization's board.

"We've been renting it out to other organizations but we won't accept anything that isn't theatrical," the chairwoman said in a phone conversation. "The Boys and Girls Club is putting on a show there this weekend and we have a grant to continue our school in the fall."

The Spotlight School, under the direction of Ashten Smith and Marvin Ramey, recently put on the school's production of "The Little Mermaid."

And looking even farther ahead, Darling said Thomas G. Robinson, who has been active in local theater for several years, has booked the Spotlight for eight nights in November. He plans to produce a play related to "The House on Mango Street," this year's selection for One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern.

Meanwhile, the performances of "Mulan Jr." this Saturday feature 38 young thespians ranging in age from 6 to 14, said Zane Smith, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club. They are participants in the club's performing arts program.

The staff includes Carly Watts, director; Ariel Clark, assistant director; and Ellie Hartman, vocal director.

"All have performed in local theater and are sharing the responsibility of choreography," Smith said.

Based on an ancient Chinese poem and Disney animated film, the musical tells the story of a young woman named Mulan who sets out on a dangerous adventure to save the emperor from an enemy attack.

She is accompanied by Mushu, a dragon. The score includes favorites like "Reflection," "Honor to Us All" and "I'll Make a Man Out of You," as well as several new songs.

Spotlight's future

As for when Spotlight will actually be up and running, a year-round season depends to a great degree on finding and hiring a qualified person to plan and oversee the theater's artistic program.

Jarrod Clowes and Alex Neal shared the artistic director duties for about six months after Hal Friedman's resignation in August 2011. However, neither is currently employed by Spotlight, according to Darling.

"We need an artistic director who has had experience, has a passion for the theater, and who will accept the salary we can offer, of course," she said. "What we need is another Emily (Thiroux) or Hal (Friedman). We can't use just a dreamer."

Thiroux, who now lives in Ventura County, founded Spotlight as a private enterprise; Friedman moved to New York City in May and recently became executive director of Rescue Agreement, an innovative theater group. Friedman's salary at the time of his resignation was about $24,000 a year, Darling said.

Yet another factor in attracting "the right person" is successfully cleaning up the theater and its adjacent rooms and offices. An additional task is doing an inventory of about 1,000 costumes the theater has accumulated over the years.

Spotlight occupies a portion of a building on 19th Street that is co-owned by Darling. She has been a major supporter of the theater since it began in 1999.

"We are embarked on a total restoration of the theater," Darling said. "We'll start right after the Boys and Girls Club moves out. It's mostly cleanup and there's some electrical that needs fixing."

The board recently accepted a proposal for doing the refurbishment from Kathy Lingenfelter, a local bookkeeper, at a cost of $4,000.

"We've got a list of about 10 things to be done," Darling said. "Kathy will be in charge, and I will supervise."

Darling said Lingenfelter also was responsible for getting Spotlight's financial affairs in order.

"We are no longer insolvent and we have almost all of our debts cleaned up," the chairwoman said. "There's just one left -- to the credit card company -- and we've been paying it off monthly; it should be paid off by next month."

Spotlight is managed by a board of directors: Darling; Lauren Franconi, secretary; Ron Steinman, treasurer; Sally Bylin; Kathleen Faulkner; Dee Slade; and Annette Bridgeman.

Banjo and cello duo

Although her gig as a banjo instructor at Tehachapi's Camp Kiya ended Wednesday, Sharon Martinson is staying over a few days and will perform with her musical partner, cellist Dave Hueber, at Fiddlers Crossing Friday evening.

Debby Hand, owner of the coffee house, said the duo met at a jam session in Mammoth Lakes and began performing as The Littlest Birds about two years ago.

"Huebner's imaginative and energetic cello is a perfect counterpoint to Martinson's unique banjo frailing style," she said. "Frailing, or clawhammer, banjo is a technique of using just the thumb and the back of one finger, rather than picks as in bluegrass."

Kids' art program expanded

Side-by-Side, a monthly art education program for children and their parents, begins on Saturday at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

Previously, the program was open only to children of preschool age. Now it's been expanded to include youngsters who are in kindergarten through eighth grade. Each session lasts one hour and takes place the second Saturday of each month.

Youth mariachi and dancers

A fundraising barbecue dinner and performance sponsored by Kern County Youth Mariachi will be held on Saturday at a private residence on South Sterling Road, according to Manuel Fonseca, director of SoLuna Ballet.

"The proceeds are to benefit the mariachi group," Fonseca said. "SoLuna is an invited guest at this event, and I am merely helping to spread the word."

Instrumental groups scheduled to perform are Mariachi Juvenil de Aztlan and Mariachi San Marcos. Also featured is Daisy Sanchez, a local vocalist.