LONG BEACH, CA -- Hoping to pump life into the moribund downtown district, the city's Redevelopment Agency has teamed up with some local businesses and Cal State Long Beach to build a new 99-seat theatre which will house the California Repertory Company, a professional theatre troupe headed by Howard Burman.
Planned for a fall opening, CRC's new home -- the group is presently based on campus at Cal State -- is located in a long-vacant two-story building on Broadway, near Pine Ave. The cost of refurbishing the property is in excess of $300,000, said Burman.
Because the Redevelopment Agency is short of cash, finding private-sector donors to help build the theatre was the only way Burman could raise that amount.
"We gave them the building, but they had to do all the tenant improvements and make all the changes that needed to be done," said Susan Shick, the agency's head. "It's a great reuse for an old, historic building. We're hoping it will bring people downtown for dinner and the theatre."
CRC began its fund-raising efforts a year ago, but could come up with only $30,000 in donations. Then Westland Construction Co. agreed to quake-proof the World War I-era brick building as a gift -- a contribution worth $62,000. Next to come onboard was Southern California Edison, which contributed $250,000 in electrical work and equipment, such as stage lights and a marquee. In appreciation of the gift, the CRC has named the theatre after the utility.
"We are delighted to help rescue this little diamond," said Edison President Stephen E. Frank.
"We aspire to be the best graduate theatre program on the West Coast," Burman said. "Being downtown will give us an identity outside the campus and let us fall or stand on our own merits, whatever the case may be."
Other theatre companies operating in Long Beach include the Terrace Theatre complex, which books touring shows and also houses the International City Theatre group's mainstage productions. Two years ago, the Long Beach Civic Light Opera Co. could not make a go of it and went under.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent