1988 ORANGE COUNTY ARTS PREVIEW : THEATER : Quest for Money Will Remain Top Priority in 1988

The search for money and new facilities will more than ever occupy theatrical organizations in 1988--from the long-established South Coast Repertory and Laguna Playhouse to the still young Grove Theatre Company.

As of now, the only sure bet for new facilities seems to be the $12-million, 750-seat Irvine Theatre to be built on a university-donated site in UC Irvine's Gateway Plaza off Campus Drive.

Ground breaking is expected in April with construction starting in the summer. The city already has pledged $9.5 million and the Irvine Co. $500,000 toward construction costs.

When the theater opens in 1990, planners say, the facility will house "smaller-scaled" dramatic and musical works by local and touring stage troupes, in addition to classical music, dance and other presentations. Booking affiliations, however, have yet to be announced.

In the advance-planning stage is the Laguna Playhouse's bid to lease a three-level General Telephone Co. office in downtown Laguna Beach to house a 250-seat "second stage," rehearsal hall, classrooms and storage spaces.

Administrators of the Laguna Playhouse, which operates the 418-seat Moulton Theatre on Laguna Canyon Road, would not disclose lease and other cost estimates in their negotiations for the office. The playhouse already has raised $710,000 in a $2-million drive to underwrite facilities and program expansions.

But the South Coast Repertory's plan for a third performing site--presumably a "mid-size" new theater built at the Orange County Performing Arts Center--remains on the shelf.

SCR's 507-seat Mainstage and 161-seat Second Stage, built for $3.5 million in 1978, are next to the Center's 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall. Last June SCR opened its $1.6-million Artists Center next to the Mainstage.

At one time, Center officials envisioned building an 800- to 1,000-seat facility next to the Segerstrom. The new facility, under this concept, would be used in large part for SCR productions.

In recent months, however, the Center has decided to make a sweeping reappraisal of where to locate such a theater and what its size and uses should be. No date has been announced for the completion of the new studies.

Meanwhile, SCR, already the most successful of Orange County theater organizations in fund drives, expects to accelerate such efforts in 1988. SCR has already raised $4.4 million of the $6.5 million it seeks for facilities and program expansions, including the company's nationally recognized play-development program.

Also in the wish-list stage is the Grove Theatre Company's hopes for its third theater.

The 9-year-old organization now runs the 178-seat Gem Theatre and 550-seat Festival Amphitheatre in Garden Grove's arts complex at Main and Euclid streets. Company officials said a study panel is being formed in 1988 to study the feasibility of a larger indoor theater built in the same complex.

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