Group to Raise Money for Civic Arts Plaza’s Educational Programs


A well-known entrepreneur and a retired professional actor have teamed up with a pledge to raise money for children’s programming and student internships at the new Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks.

Larry Janss and Harry Selvin, both members of the theater commission that sets policy for the Civic Arts Plaza, announced this week that they have formed a nonprofit group dedicated to raising an endowment for educational programming.

“We’re looking at the senior citizens and the kids, who have not been addressed at all so far,” said Selvin, who spent two decades tap-dancing, acting and playing drums in a bevy of Hollywood movies. “We want to give them an opportunity to take advantage of our community and get involved here.”


Although they have not yet established a fund-raising target, Janss and Selvin have set forth a detailed vision of their goals.

Primarily, their all-volunteer Gold Coast Performing Arts Assn. will subsidize children’s shows, from theater to symphony to dance.

Troupes performing for kids during the school day will pay reduced rates to rent the Civic Arts Plaza’s 1,800-seat auditorium and 400-seat theater. The Gold Coast group will make up the difference, in an effort to keep the center’s operating budget balanced.

To keep the bottom line steady, Selvin and Janss will likely have to raise a hefty endowment.

“We’re not looking for $10,000--we’re looking for substantial figures,” Selvin said. “We’re not looking to fund-raise and say, ‘Wow, we’ve got X amount of dollars now.’ We’re hoping to get continual support over the years.”

The theaters’ executive director, Tom Mitze, warned the commissioners at a Wednesday night meeting that every show requires some subsidy, through parking fees, concession sales or other means. Children’s programming, which generally commands lower ticket prices, may need even more of a boost.


“If we charged enough rent to really cover our annual overhead, no one would be able to afford to use the theater,” Mitze said.

Hence, the programming endowment.

The Alliance for the Arts has already collected nearly $2.5 million for a separate operations endowment to fund the day-to-day costs of running the Civic Arts Plaza. But Janss and Selvin hope to attract a different group of donors.

“The alliance endowment is buying paper clips and toilet paper,” Janss said. “It’s hard to raise money for that, because there’s no sizzle.”

In the alliance’s makeshift office across the street from the Civic Arts Plaza construction site, campaign director Richard Johnson agreed. Several alliance members have agreed to join Gold Coast’s board of trustees, and Johnson said he expects the two fund-raising drives to complement one another.

“We’ll find ways so that no one will be in conflict,” he said.

Along with subsidizing children’s shows, Janss and Selvin hope to organize field trips to the Civic Arts Plaza for teen-age students and senior citizens. Their association, they said, could offer free or cut-rate tickets to full-dress rehearsals when professional troupes come to town.

Finally, the commissioners plan to establish internship programs allowing high school and college students to trail theater professionals through the Civic Arts Plaza.


“Kids really interested in theater could do high-level gofering, pulling the ropes, setting the lights up and so on,” Janss said. “They would tag along with a director on a soup-to-nuts production, from the first read-through to the final curtain call.”