As the Visalia Fox Theatre prepares to reopen its doors to live entertainment for the first time in 18 months since the pandemic started in March 2020, the nonprofit board that runs the historic venue has announced it has hired a new executive director.
Wilhelmina Santana brings 35 years of event and theater management to the Visalia Fox. Her experience includes being director of event services at the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center and working with the Broadway in Fresno series, as well as theater management experience in Florida and Georgia.
“At every venue, I focused on cultivating community relationships and building out theater outreach,” Santana said. “I plan on bringing that knowledge to The Fox by continuing best practices and building from there to form new partnerships and community engagement.”
Santana begins her tenure on Sept. 7 following previous Visalia Fox executive director Vikky Escobedo’s departure and relocation to Texas.
“Wilhelmina brings a unique blend of experience in the entertainment industry, venue management, finance, and business administration,” Escobedo said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have led the Fox organization for the past 27 months, even though that included 18 months of the pandemic shutdown. We are indeed emerging from a very difficult season in our nearly 92-year history, and I have no doubt that under Ms. Santana’s leadership, the Fox will thrive.”
The Fox will kick off its 2021 season on Sept. 17 when comedian Felipe Esparza performs.
“The Visalia Fox Theatre is excited to see Wilhelmina’s leadership in action,” said Max Lupercio, President of the Board of the Visalian Friends of the Fox Theatre (the nonprofit group which operates and manages the Visalia Fox Theatre). “She’s lived all over the country and worked in theaters large and small — she has the perfect mix of big-city and small-town know-how when it comes to running an entertainment venue. We considered several qualified applicants from across the country. After Wilhelmina’s interview, we knew we had found the right person for this job.”
The Visalia Fox opened in 1930 as a single-screen movie theater. In 1976, the auditorium was split into three screens. In 1996, the then three-screen theater was closed and the Visalia Fox was put up for sale.
Shortly after, Friends of the Fox was formed and started raising money to buy and restore the landmark theater. After a successful fundraising effort, the restored single-auditorium theater reopened in November 1999. Since then, the Visalia Fox has hosted a combination of live events and film screenings. The downtown institution is the home of the Sequoia Symphony and the Enchanted Playhouse.
The Visalia Fox Theatre is in the process of adding a full roster of events to the Fall 2021 season. Current planned shows include:
- Sept. 17: Felipe Esparza, presented by Perico Productions
- Oct. 8: The Hodgetwins, presented by JMax Productions
- Oct. 16: The Sequoia Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening show
- Oct. 23: Mariachi Los Camperos’ Tradition, Art and Passion: A Day of the Dead in Mexico
- Nov. 13: Carlos Mencia, presented by Perico Productions
Information and tickets: https://www.foxvisalia.org/
James Ward covers entertainment, news, sports and lifestyles for the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register. Follow him on Twitter. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.