Residents here might think they own the Civic Arts Plaza.
But the real owner--the one who gets to roam the empty stage all night--is a slender gray cat named Scout.
Less than 2 years old, Scout is already an accomplished mouser as well as the sole full-time occupant of the $64-million building.
Scout, who has a white belly and mustache, was brought to the plaza--specifically to the main theater--to get rid of the facility's growing mouse population just after Thanksgiving. Because the building is on what had been an empty field, mice were everywhere, scurrying through the back hallways and darting across the stage. One brave mouse even made regular trips to Tuesday night council meetings, zipping out occasionally from under the council dais in the Forum Theater.
According to house manager Mary Ann Tachco, who got the cat at the Agoura animal shelter, Scout has excelled in her role as professional vermin control.
"I haven't seen any mice since she came," Tachco said. "I think word gets out."
Having a resident cat is somewhat of a theater tradition. Even the Kennedy Center in Washington, one of the most dignified of theatrical settings, has a cat. Tachco remembered that the Conejo Players had a resident cat and tried to recruit it. But that cat had retired, so she went to the shelter. Scout had been there for only a day, turned in by a family who couldn't keep her because of allergies.
"She seemed really sweet," Tachco said.
When the cat was let loose in the theater, she immediately disappeared for three days.
"I was afraid we'd lose her," Tachco said. "I thought maybe I'd done a really inhumane thing."
But gradually Scout came out of hiding. She spends part of her day curled up in technical director Gary Mintz's office.
On performance nights, Scout goes into deep hiding. But late at night, she lets it be known that she would like her home to herself again.
"If people aren't gone by 10 or 10:30, you can hear her meowing," Tachco said. "She wants them gone."