The History of SonLight


Orange City News
Orange, California

August 7, 1974
Page 8

Theatre Gets Toe-Hold in Orange
By Alan Trudell

The relentless pounding of Jackhammers and the whining of power saws are gone now, their undignified presence caused by a $250,000 face lift to a solid concrete behemoth originally costing $65,000 back in 1928.

Gone are the days of the old Pantages vaudeville circuit of which it was a part. Saturday afternoon matinees viewed by popcorn-devouring children have been replaced by those who prefer it "on the rocks" rather than with or without butter.

Chewing gum under the seats will not be found here. This is the Orange Playhouse, the county's only true, legitimate theatre, launched In June with the opening of "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" starring Pat Paulsen.

Internal strife, however, has plagued that take-off since the start of the season. Within a month Producer General Manager Al Edwards and House Manager, Chris Ryan were relieved of their duties. Edwards had allegedly snubbed both the public and press, resulting in lees than sensational box office receipts. The Board of Directors was faced with a financial white elephant.

Help though, has apparently been found from the now defunct Melodyland Theatre. Former General Manager Harry Zevin and publicity advertising man Jim Woodin have been brought over to stem the tide of certain disaster.

"One half of our time is spent rectifying what has been done," said Woodin. He is currently revising the advertising and promotion campaign in efforts to get better public response. Woodin has been enticing major local companies and civic groups with mailers containing discount tickets. According to him it is working.

"We have had unbelievable contacts from the public," he said. "Not here."

Since the change in command, Woodin indicated attendance has been much higher. "The next shows will be even better, because they have been promoted differently." he said.

But just to break even there must be at least fifty to sixty per cent capacity in the 1,050 seat theatre.

Asked about the future of the orange Playhouse, Woodin said that "if we are allowed to do everything we have on the schedule, it will be the only place you can see a show in Orange County."

The two most important items on that schedule include proper air conditioning and "considerably" lower ticket prices when their optimistic second season begins. Woodin attributes the planned reduction in the present $4.75 to $8.50 price range to "buying quality at a better rate."

Quality is also a factor concerning new Executive Producer Harry Zevin. He is a hard-nosed businessman. During his career he has managed the Carousel Theatre and Circle Star in San Francisco. He has also produced many celebrity attractions staged at the Anaheim Convention Center and several motion pictures.

Zevin said he has a new philosophy for the Orange Playhouse - "to make money".

"We will find out what the people want and give it to them. We will also find out what is right for here."

Some potential productions include the "Nutcracker" ballet, Los Vegas - type entertainment and an appearance by the touring group of the San Francisco Opera.
Zevin said proper support would be needed for such a diverse season however.

Apparently that support not only must come from a theatre - ready public, but a considerable amount of money is also needed.

The Playhouse is backed almost entirely by Mr. and Mrs. Martin Danner of Orange. Presently there are only two other financial contributors but avenues are under investigation to include other investors.

A group of prominent local citizens have banned together to form "The Friends of the Orange Playhouse". They provide a free promotion service for the theatre within the community. It also includes an ushers auxiliary - another cost deferring item.

Orange County has long been labeled a theatrical "no man's land", and the Playhouse has a long way to go before it can become a second Music Center. The productions will have to be first rate to lure people who have so long been raised on television and drive-ins.


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