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Amateur Troupe to Stage Fund-Raiser at Dinner Theater

Times Staff Writer

The Southampton Dinner Theatre in San Clemente, which bowed out of professional theatrical operations Sunday to become a banquet facility, will play host to an amateur production of Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two” for three weekends in October.

The San Clemente Community Theatre, a nonprofit group, will stage the comedy at the 325-seat dinner theater as a fund-raiser to help finance its regular season at the Cabrillo Playhouse, according to board member Stanford Manning.

“It’s just a temporary thing,” Manning said Wednesday in response to a published report that the community troupe would take over theatrical operations at the Southampton. “We’re trying to make some money. If it’s successful, maybe we’ll do it a little bit more.”

“Chapter Two” is scheduled to open Oct. 6 and to run Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday matinees through Oct. 23. Manning, who will play the male lead and is also the publisher of the Daily Sun-Post in San Clemente, said the troupe staged the comedy five years ago and had “an enormous success” with it.

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William M. Ray, president of the community theater board, said he hopes the troupe will be able to use the Southampton occasionally to stage productions too large for the Cabrillo, which has only 59 seats.

“We made the arrangement with the Southampton just for this particular show,” Ray said. We wouldn’t want to conflict with our plays at the Cabrillo.”

The community troupe’s current production, “No Sex Please, We’re British,” ends its run at the Cabrillo on Oct. 1. Its next play, “Born Yesterday,” opens there Oct. 27. The troupe’s annual budget is about $25,000, Ray said.

The owners of the Southampton, Barbara and Al Hampton, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But Richard Smith, the reservation manager at the Southampton, said the Hamptons “made the decision over the weekend” to collaborate with the community troupe. They had discussions with the troupe earlier this summer, Smith said.

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After a report in The Times last week that the Southampton would cease offering professional theater, Barbara Hampton confirmed that the dinner theater would become primarily a banquet facility.

“We just couldn’t make a go of it,” she said. The Southampton’s unprofitable stage productions featured union talent from Actors’ Equity.

Hampton and her husband purchased the dinner theater, then called Sebastian’s West, for $80,000 in a 1986 bankruptcy proceeding. She said they invested at least $300,000 over the next two years.

“The Hamptons are kind of tired of it all as far as theater goes down here,” Ray confirmed. “With this production, they’ll do the dinner and we’ll do the show.”

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