Cambrian: Arts & Events

Pewter Plough Playhouse looking for a new acting troupe as owner scales back

The Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria’s West Village is for sale.
The Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria’s West Village is for sale.

Pewter Plough Playhouse owner Rebecca Buckley is looking for an acting troupe to lease the Cambria theater in 2018, but it won’t be the group that performed there for many years.

Tennessee Williams’ aptly titled “Period of Adjustment,” the final play of 2017, will also be the last one Buckley produces at the Plough, she said.

“It ends on Jan. 28,” she said, “when my production company will no (longer) exist. So I’ll be leasing out the theater to turn over play production at the Plough to a younger, more energetic, more talented generation. I just want to be a landlord again.”

Buckley, 78, is fielding inquiries about the lease via email at rjbstage@aol.com. She said three groups have already expressed interest in leasing the building, but the former Pewter Plough Players won’t be returning.

The Players moved to Morro Bay after parting ways with Buckley following the 2016 season, rebranding themselves as By the Sea Productions.

“I offered the opportunity to return to the previous group first, but they are happy where they are, belong to Morro Bay Chamber and enjoy new patrons,” Buckley said.

Anita Schwaber, president of the group, confirmed that By the Sea would be staying in Morro Bay, having already mapped out a schedule for 2018.

The troupe will open its season Feb. 9 with Paul Elliott’s comedy “Exit Laughing,” which will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 4. (The plot focuses on three bridge players whose fourth partner inconveniently dies, so they borrow her ashes from the funeral parlor for one last card game — a wild night that winds up including a police raid and a stripper.)

“We have an agreement with St. Peter’s By the Sea Episcopal Church for 2018,” Schwaber said. “We have expanded our season there and will be doing five shows during the year. So, no, we will not be returning to the PPP next year.”

Buckley, Rebecca - 2017
Rebecca Buckley, owner of the Pewter Plough Playhouse, says she has received three inquiries about leasing the theater. Cambrian file photo

Eventful year

The 2017 season at the Plough began with a series of changes. In addition to continued dramatic performances, a variety of attractions such as musical performances and poetry readings were sprinkled across the calendar.

In July, however, Buckley cut back on the musical dates because the shows weren’t attracting enough of an audience to cover the costs of paying the musicians.

Then, in early August, she announced she’d put the property up for sale, asking a price of $1.3 million. She continued to produce plays while the theater was on the market and said she received no formal offers. On Wednesday, she said she’d taken it off the market “a few weeks ago.”

Buckley said she had no regrets about running the theater herself during 2017. She said she “had done it all before (and thought) it would be easy.”

“But this time,” she said, “it was different. I’m older, and although my creativity was satisfied with the projects, I have learned I value my quiet, free time more. I want to get back to writing, not producing plays and dealing with all it takes to do a season of plays. I’ve discovered I’m not cut out for it anymore, can’t afford it, and it’s too stressful.”

PPP Suds
The sets for “Suds” this year at the Pewter Plough transformed the stage into a laundromat. Courtesy photo

Buckley is the author of 12 books, more than half of them in the Rachel O’Neill “Midnight” series.

Marie Antoinette Kiley, general manager of the current production company, said she was disappointed in the decision to disband, “but we cannot pull enough business in. ... The money is not there, or the playgoers. Too bad to lose a wonderful venue.”

The theater won’t go dark with the new year, Buckley said. A New Year’s Eve gala is planned in conjunction with the present play, including a buffet dinner and dancing until midnight. Charlie and Sandi Shoemake will provide the music, with Matthew Evens on bass and vocals.

After the current production closes, the theater will host films in the Cambria Film Festival, set for Feb. 8-11.

Charlie Shoemake will continue to provide dinner piano music Friday and Saturday evenings at The Harmony Café, which will remain open, Buckley added.

“We’re still alive and kickin’,” Buckley said, “just changin’ it up a bit.”

Stephen H. Provost: 805-927-8896, @sproauthor

Coming up

Pewter Plough: Tennessee Williams’ “Period of Adjustment,” Fridays through Sundays, through Jan. 28 at the theater, 828 Main St. Details: 805-927-3877 or www.pewterploughplayhouse.net. Cambria Film Festival, Feb. 8-11. Details: 805-927-8190 or cambriafilmfestival.com.

By the Sea Productions: “Exit Laughing,” Fridays through Sundays, Feb. 9-March 4 at 545 Shasta Ave. in Morro Bay. Other 2018 productions include “Love Alone” (May 11-June 3), “The Murder Room” (June 22-July 15) and “Of Mice and Men” (Aug. 24-Sept. 16). Details: 805-776-3287 or www.bytheseaproductions.org.

Poetry readings: Mary Anne Anderson’s poetry/spoken word readings will move from the Plough to the Unitarian Universalist Church, 786 Arlington in the West Village, from 7 to 9 p.m. beginning Thursday, Feb. 1. Admission will be free the first Thursday of every month. Details: 831-277-4028.

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