When Berdette Robison first walked into the multitiered theater at Templeton High School, she couldn’t believe it.
“I thought it would be a little school auditorium,” she said. “But then I walked in and it was just amazing.”
Robison, the Templeton Chamber of Commerce’s new executive director, is working to open up the little-known venue to the public.
The move would make the 325-seat theater the latest performing arts center in the North County.
School leaders say they’re excited for the partnership; the official agreement is slated to go before the Templeton Unified School District board next month for approval.
Robison hopes to offer five performances this year, with a focus on summer shows while school is out of session. Student activities and productions would take priority over the chamber productions, according to the plans.
The first public show, “A Tribute to Sinatra” planned for March 30, features a cabaret-style concert. A Broadway show, a Western music concert and a youth theater production are among future options, although specifics of each are still in the works.
Since opening in 2003, the Templeton Performing Arts Center — equipped with a full stage, professional lighting and dressing rooms — has traditionally been used for school plays, dance recitals and other events.
But with some help from Robison, a former marketing director of a community theater in Arizona, the venue could become a magnet for local performance groups and acts traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The size and style of the theater is most like Forbes Hall at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande, which has a seating capacity of 617.
The plan calls for the school district to provide its regular sound and lighting technicians. The chamber would be in charge of hiring all performers, promotions, ticketing and providing volunteers as needed.
With the building already set up, Robison said there are few costs. She believes most expenses will be covered by sales of tickets, which would go for $15 per person in advance and $20 at the door. The biggest cost is paying the performers, she said, which is priced around $1,500 to $1,800 per show. Covering that would require about one-third of the seats to sell. Printing the paper tickets and programs are among other costs, but Robison says those are minimal and will be done in-house. Volunteer opportunities will also decrease some costs, such as seeking ushers and hosting student group fundraisers for the concessions.
“My thought was not to be making a lot of money, but to truly open up this venue to the public,” Robison said.
Under the partnership, ticket proceeds will first cover the costs of operating the shows. Any leftovers would then be split with 75 percent going to the chamber and 25 percent going to the district for providing the venue. Putting on community shows could bring income to school to help invest in the upkeep of and improvements to the theater, according to the school district.
“It’s certainly a move in the right direction as far as a community and schools working together to enhance services,” Templeton Unified School District Superintendent Joe Koeski said.
If you go …
The first show, “A Tribute to Sinatra,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 30. Tickets are $15 per person in advance and $20 at the door. They aren’t available online but can be purchased through the Templeton Chamber of Commerce office by calling 434-1789 or visiting 524 S. Main St.