Nov 15, 2019
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Play to provide funds and toys for the Toys for Tots program


On Nov. 5 Joe W. Ozier’s “Shep’s Christmas Wish” will be
performed at The Warnor Center for the Performing Arts. All
ticket sales will be given to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots.
Photo Courtesy of Warnor Center for the Performing Arts

As Joe W. Ozier walked along the streets of Madera, he came across a dog tied up in a yard. Feeling pity for it, he convinced the owner to let him take the dog home.

Ozier soon began writing music and backstory for the dog, and how he ended up where he was today. Over time what he wrote became “Shep’s Christmas Wish,” a musical comedy that will be performed at the Warnors Theatre on Nov. 5 for one night only.

The goal of the play is to raise money for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. All ticket sales will be donated to the program, and patrons are asked to bring along one toy to donate.

“The play is very funny,” Sue Smilie-Janecek, stage manager for the play, said. “It’s a musical comedy about a young man and his dog and their search for love and a family.”

The play is for all ages and features singing and dancing by both human characters and the dogs as well.

Both Smilie-Janecek and Ozier hope for a sold-out show, and to fill out the theatre’s 2,100 seats.

“We would like people to buy tickets so that all the money that we raise goes to buying toys in a bulk fashion,” Ozier said. “It’s a good thing for people to come and buy tickets and come and see. It’s a funny show, it’s a heart-warming show and the message of the show is kind of synonymous with the United Way in terms of its message of hope and love and those sort of things.”

Their goal is to raise $30,000 in one evening.

They have less than half the seats sold, but Smilie-Janecek remains optimistic about Fresno’s theatre-going crowd.

“People from Fresno are notoriously late purchasing tickets,” she said. “They like to wait to the last minute.”

Smilie-Janecek plans on using the theatre’s attractive qualities to draw in a large crowd.

Executive Director Jim Pacini, Jr., who oversees Warnors, said the theatre is a historical landmark and one of the most beautiful theatres in Fresno. Warnors is enormous, with an interior boasting Spanish and Italian Renaissance elements.

To make sure not a dime is wasted, Smilie-Janecek is counting on the economic talent of the Marines.

“The Marines have this awesome buying power. They can take a dollar and stretch it—maybe get $5 for the toys out of it. They can buy toys directly from the manufacturer and from distributors like Toys R Us and people like that. We can get a lot more toys for our money.”

At the theatre there will be a large red and white collection box guarded by Marines in full uniform. Patrons with toys for donation need only to drop the toys off before enjoying the show.

Though highly encouraged, bringing a toy isn’t mandatory to watch the show. Smilie-Janecek said she would be happy simply with a ticket purchase, which also goes toward the cause.

“We want to raise as much as we can,” she said. “It all goes to toys—100 percent of our ticket sales goes to toys.”

Located in downtown Fresno, the famous Warnors Center for the Performing Arts has offered performances since 1928.

United Way has been allowed to rent out the theatre at a low cost, insuring that most of the money made goes to the kids.

“We try and work with different groups in the community, so that they have a decent place to come at a reasonable price,” Pacini said.

Correction: The original story said that Warnors was located in the Tower District. It is actually located in downtown Fresno.

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