The History of SonLight


Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, California

May 7, 1974
Section: Part II

New Role For Old Standby
By Dale Fetherling

ORANGE-The dust now settling on her plush seats and gilded walls gathered there over more than 40 years of vaudeville and motion pictures.

But the whine of saws and the beat of hammers is signaling yet another life for the old Orange Theatre.

Out with the popcorn machine, in with the bar. New carpeting and upholstery in the '30s motif. A fresh coat of paint for the gargoyles and lions which look out on the classic Art Deco-style marquee.

In all, a $250,000 face-lifting is under way that will transform the cavernous movie palace, once a fixture of the Pantages vaudeville circuit, into a legitimate theater, the Orange Playhouse.

The theater, at 172 N. Glassell St., just north of the Orange Plaza, is said to be the last proscenium, or stage-type theater in Orange County.

Broadway plays with professional actors will begin in early June, with the curtain first going up on the comedy, "Last of the Red Hot Lovers." A TV or film star is to play the lead in each production.

Following for a 32-week stage season will be other comedies, then maybe a concert or two for a change of pace, then a series of musicals.

Such variety will be nothing new to the old theater. Owner Norman Goodin said the building, which opened in 1928, has housed over the years vaudeville, films, stage shows, and even ballet.

Chris Ryan and Al Edwards, co-producers of the new shows, consider the old movie house a rare find.

From the top row of its 1,050 seats, for example, an actor's unamplified voice can clearly be heard, Ryan said. And, the decorations - many of which are being retained - clearly bespeak the flavor of another era.

There's the band-painted mica chandelier hanging over the main auditorium, the huge beveled plate-glass mirrors on the Stair landings, the original pipe organ in the orchestra pit and the latticed organ vents running the full height of the walls.

Some of the dark and dingy backrooms of the theater looked "like something out of Edgar Allen Poe," Ryan said. Those are being renovated now into actors' dressing rooms, and everywhere there are workmen busily seeking to bring the heater up to level of comfort and city codes.

In so doing, they discover reminders of the years and the entertainment gone by.

Layer upon layer of bright, flowered wallpaper is exposed. An old blueprint shows that the cubbyhole in one wall was to store ice for the drinking fountain, long since replaced by a modern, electric one.

The walls of the old structure were discovered to be solid concrete, 18 inches thick.

Some of the finds suggest mankind has made some technical progress, at least. For example, an old backstage dimmer switch, when pulled, erupted in a shower of sparks. Also found was a Vitagraph disk, an ancient phonograph record played to provide sound for the early movies.

In front of each of the theater's seats is a 4-inch hole in the floor, part of a forced-air cooling system. Though bringing in fresh drafts, the ducts also took out no small amount of debris.


Pastors | Ministries | Kids Page | Prayer | Steps to Peace with God | Search
Free Movies | History | Schedule of Services | Map | What We Believe | Contact Us | Home