Weeks away from a grand reopening after a renovation in 1994, the El Portal Theatre Center in North Hollywood was devastated by the lethal Northridge earthquake that struck the Los Angeles area.
On Jan. 7, arts advocates, business people, government officials and film and stage performers will finally see the theatre reawaken at a hard-hat tour of the now nearly-rebuilt multi-space complex. Although construction isn't expected to be complete until July 1999, El Portal managing director Bob Caine and artistic director Jeremiah Morris will draw back the curtain 10 AM (PT) Jan. 7 for a "first look" at a 390-seat Equity theatre, a 99-seat flexible black box, a 50-seat performance space called "Front Door," and a cabaret room.
Among those expected to attend the press conference and tour are Tyne Daly, Martin Landau, Charles Nelson Reilly, Robert Morse, actress Susan Egan, El Portal architect Richard McCann and city officials.
It took five years and $7.5 million to reconstruct the earthquake shattered El Portal, a 1926 movie palace. By comparison, when it was to be reopened in 1994, the conversion/renovation from movie house to multi-space theatre complex only cost $350,000, according to El Portal spokesperson Pegge Forrest.
The delay in reopening was due to raising necessary funds from various sources, Forrest told Playbill On-Line Jan. 6. El Portal, which is Spanish for "The Door," is operated by the space's resident theatre company, Actors Alley, a nonprofit Equity troupe formed in 1971. Tyne Daly, mentioned above, was an early member of Actors Alley.
Since the earthquake, Actors Alley -- run by Caine and Morris -- has performed in a tiny storefront attached to the El Portal. That space will become the complex's 50-seat "Front Door" suitable for readings, workshops and intimate shows.
Spokesperson Forrest said Actors Alley is on the process of negotiating an Actors' Equity agreement for the new spaces, perhaps leading to a League of Resident Theatres (LORT) contract.
In the summer of 1999 El Portal will offer one-person shows and special events before the start of its main season in October 1999.
Forrest said Actors Alley will likely stage three productions in the 390 seat proscenium theatre and four in the black box in the 1999-2000 season. "Name" artists have expressed interest in working at El Portal, she said.
El Portal is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd., north of Magnolia, in the so-called NoHo Arts District in North Hollywood. The theatre is in the San Fernando Valley, not far from Universal Studios.
-- By Kenneth Jones