Playhouse Lands a Permanent Home in Library

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After more than 27 years as a nomadic troupe, the Huntington Beach Playhouse has secured a permanent, plush home in the Huntington Beach Central Library on Golden West Street.

As part of an $8.4-million library expansion approved by the City Council this week, a 320-seat theater in the new wing will be designed to accommodate Playhouse performances as well as music and dance programs, lectures and other activities.

The Playhouse--which has staged productions in a shopping center, a barn and a school auditorium--is expected to move into the library as soon as fall of 1992. Construction is scheduled to begin within six months, according to Ron Hayden, city library director.

Noting that the library is expected to attract 3,000 patrons daily, Playhouse officials say they are hoping to draw larger audiences and, given a new and permanent base, to improve the quality of their five productions each season. Fund raising, and efforts to get volunteers involved in productions, also will be stepped up.

The troupe further plans to expand its scholarship program for theater students, said Bill Verhaegen, Playhouse business manager. Operating on an annual budget of about $35,000, the troupe now awards $1,500 in scholarships each year.

"Everyone connected with the Playhouse is ecstatic over this new home," Verhaegen said Wednesday. "We're anticipating a lot of fun the next year and half or so getting ready. We're all just dying to get in there."

The troupe's move to the new facility, in the works since last fall, came about through a financing package put together by library director Hayden. Under the plan, the city will purchase $5.26 million in bonds, all of which will be repaid through income the library expects to generate with its new amenities.

For example, the city will draw $1.10 from each playhouse ticket sold to help pay the bond costs. City and private funds have been earmarked to cover the balance of the expansion costs.

In addition to the theater, the new two-level wing will include a new children's resource center, an expanded computer and media center, two new meeting rooms and an improved lobby and gift shop.

The library is on Golden West Street at Talbert Avenue. That section of Talbert will be removed to accommodate the greater parking space needed because of the expansion. Most recently, the Playhouse has been operating at the otherwise closed Ernest H. Gisler Middle School on Strathmoor Lane.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Friday March 29, 1991 Orange County Edition Calendar Part F Page 21 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction The City of Huntington Beach will purchase $5.026 million in bonds to finance expansion of its Central Library on Golden West Street. Because of an editing error, the wrong amount was reported in Thursday's Calendar.
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