Before the first curtain goes up, the Clayton Theatre Company is throwing a big party at Endeavor Hall to delight and entertain all.

"We hope people come and meet us," said Clayton Theatre Company board president Leslie Howell.

Along with appetizers, there will be a variety of short performances by local dancers, musicians and singers throughout the evening to entice visitors.

"We just want to whet the appetite, not give a full course," said Cara Bent, secretary of the board.

Howell and Bent discussed creating a Clayton community theater company long before the demise of the Willows Theatre Company last month.

The Willows Theatre Company had operated in the East Bay since 1977 and despite its last-ditch effort to raise funds, it was forced to file bankruptcy and bring down its final curtain in August.

Other live theater companies have also had to close their doors and cease operation.

"We are going to be more of a community theater where all people can be involved," said Bent. "Clayton doesn't know the talent and gems they have living right next door to them."

"We just want to bring theater to Clayton and the surrounding area," said CTC managing director Roxanne Pardi.

Pardi teaches piano and voice lessons and has been the vocal director for several community theater productions, including at the Willows. She has also been nominated twice for a Shellie Award for best actress in a musical.

Pardi, along with La Tonya Watts, the company's artistic director and also a Shellie nominee, will be working to assure Clayton and its surrounding communities are provided with the best community theater possible.

"We are not trying to compete with the big boys," Pardi said. "This is something we will be doing on the side. We are not giving up our day jobs."

Watts trained at Julliard in New York as well as the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

Most of the performances presented at the launch party will be under her tutelage, and Pardi will perform a song during the evening.

CTC's first play is planned for spring and will be a melodrama, a play with a sensational or romantic plot, interspersed with musical numbers. It is to honor those community shows performed throughout the 1960s and early '70s, said Watts.

She said the plans are to have two plays each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.

Everyone is invited to become involved and a part of the shows. There will be open auditions for parts, but there is also need for people to help with scenery and costuming, said Bent.

"The community is not just Clayton -- actors come from all over the place. Anyone who wants can come and audition," Bent said.

Although the Clayton Community Theatre company plans to operate with volunteers wanting to experience small-town theater, Bent admits funds are needed to keep any company alive and to make performances happen.

Pardi says the company currently has $6,000 in its coffers, but needs another $4,000 to incorporate as a nonprofit and obtain necessary scripts for the spring production.

If not enough money can be raised in time to put together a melodrama in May, the company will move its first production to the fall, but a show will go on, say those involved.

if you go
Who: Clayton Theatre Company Inc.
What: Launch party
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29
Where: Endeavor Hall, 6008 Center St., Clayton
Cost: Free