Cambria Center for the Arts

Don’t just stand there, take your seats!

Cambria Center for the Arts installs seats from Performing Arts Center in SLO on risers, improving theater experience

Special to The CambrianJuly 25, 2013 

An open house Sunday will celebrate the unveiling of the renovated Theatre at the Cambria Center for the Arts. New seats, new lighting and an enlarged thrust stage have transformed what was formerly the Old Grammar School auditorium to a state-of-the-art theater, explained Nancy Green. She has been at the helm since 2011 in the effort to upgrade the theater since the Allied Arts Association entered into a joint use agreement with the Coast Unified School District. The hallways adjacent to the theatre serve as galleries for Allied Arts artists.

“It’s been a joy for us who are working here to build this wonderful art center for our community,” Green said as she sat in the theater with Barb Beane, theater publicist, as Angelo Procopio (an actor), on a ladder, painted a set piece for the upcoming show, “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Some of the upgrades in the theater have been free, such as the seats, with the rest being funded by donations, and the installation work being done by “my dedicated and wonderful volunteers,” Green said. The 98 seats came from Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center.
“Five men and I hand-picked the seats. They were in storage from last August until the actual work began in January.”

But money had to be raised to purchase the riser apparatus the seats are mounted on. The school district required that piece of equipment. The seats are more steeply raked than the previous seats, improving viewing and making it unobstructed.

The new lighting was designed and installed by members of a senior class in mechanical engineering at Cal Poly as a community project under the guidance of Professor Lee McFarland, but Allied Arts had to pay for the wiring.

The thrust stage, which is 20 feet wide and extends 12 feet out from the proscenium (where the original stage ended) was paid for by “donations from our wonderful community,” Green said.

This is the beginning of a new theater, not just for Cambria but for the Central Coast theater community, she added, with plans for student workshops and performances for young audiences as well as regular seasons of plays and musicals.

A Dramarama workshop for kids 8 to 12 years old was held in June, and plans are in the works for one for older students in the future. In September, “The Frog Prince,” a play for young audiences, will be presented. Jan Callner is heading the youth-oriented efforts.

“Little Shop of Horrors” will be the first show to be performed in the newly constructed theater, opening Aug. 2. Green said she would like to recruit an army of volunteers to help with the shows. The show is being directed by Randy Schwalbe, who is the musical director of the theater.

“My dream is to have three separate crews for each production,” Green said, adding that it takes commitment and time, but can be a learning experience.

“Lighting, sound, the backstage crew — they are the base, more important than anyone. It’s an opportunity for young people to learn how to operate lights and sound and work backstage. Each job is an art.”

Some of the key people behind the scenes have been Mark Crawford, lighting designer and operator, Rick Auricchio, sound designer and engineer; Bruce Marchese, set artist; Art Van Rhyn, set builder; and Vito Tullo, “who does it all.” They are all willing to teach volunteers their skills.

The refurbished theater will be available to other groups when Allied Arts is not using it. Arts organizations and nonprofit groups can go through Allied Arts and collaborate on publicity and theater management, with written agreements and financial arrangements. The theater can also be rented through the Coast Unified School District.

“This is a new entity in the theater community,” Green said. “We have created a phenomenon.”


Open theater

Come see new lighting, seats and thrust stage. Free. 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 28, Cambria Center for the Arts, 1350 Main St. (in the Old Grammar School).

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