Cost Stalls Quest for Black Actors Theater

Times Staff Writer

The latest effort to install the Orange County Black Actors Theatre in a permanent home has fallen through.

"The cost was just too prohibitive," artistic director Adleane Hunter said Wednesday of an announced plan to transform a downtown Santa Ana storefront into a cultural facility that would include a 100-seat theater and an art gallery.

A member of the theater's board of directors had been negotiating for the 6,000-square-foot store at Main Street and Washington Avenue, and Hunter had said she hoped to begin mounting a season of plays there by January along with a series of art exhibitions, jazz and blues programs, poetry readings and drama workshops.

"There is no way of opening at this point," she said from Los Angeles, where she was rehearsing the world premiere of Samm-Art Williams' "Woman From Town" at the Inner City Theatre for another troupe.

Expenses at the storefront in Santa Ana would have come to about $7,000 per month, Hunter said, far greater than the $2,500 range that she and the board member, Mae Ussery of Irvine, were willing to commit.

She said the county's only black theater troupe has not given up its search for affordable space in Santa Ana and will continue to operate in the county, even though she herself will move move to San Diego County in the near future.

Meanwhile, she noted, a separate search for theater operating funds continues. Hunter said the company has just prepared a three-year proposal, asking for $280,000 to underwrite expenses for facilities, staffing and some production costs. The proposal is being circulated to private foundations, arts agencies and corporations, she said. "We were just turned down by the National Endowment for the Arts for a $43,000 grant, though we'd been told it was a strong application," Hunter said. "So now we're back to square one."

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