A couple of prominent Valley theaters are putting their money where their talent is--in their buildings.
The Victory Theatre in Burbank has been in its location for 18 years. North Hollywood’s Interact Theatre has worked out of its Hart Street location, a former cattle exchange, for half a decade.
In the case of the Victory, artistic co-directors Tom Ormeny and Maria Gobetti were, due to a rent increase, faced with the possibility of having to rent a new theater.
After looking at other rental spaces and finding the cost would be prohibitive, particularly when remodeling was involved, they decided to purchase the property they are in.
Ormeny said he and Gobetti have put thousands of dollars worth of improvements into the Victory space, including installing a mammoth air-conditioning unit that would have to remain if they moved.
But eight banks were unwilling to support such a purchase. “They all said no,” Gobetti said. “We’ve been here 18 years. We have A-1 credit. We never ran in the red.”
But theirs is a nonprofit organization, Ormeny said, and banks are leery of investing in such artistic ventures. “It’s not a cash-over-the-counter business,” he said. “You’re always dependent on fund-raising, and the banks know how fragile that is.”
Finally, with the help of two anonymous guarantors, the property is theirs, and they are able to return to what Gobetti calls “the work,” the production of new plays. Remember, it was Beth Henley’s “Miss Firecracker Contest” that opened the Victory in the first place.
During the transition, the theater has continued to be active. Although main-stage production development was halted, Gobetti produced a few low-budget shows at their second space, the Little Victory.
The Victory is at last able to announce a full season. Ormeny and Gobetti will begin with the April 11 opening of Donald Freed’s political drama, “The General and the Archbishop,” about the Christmas Eve arrival at the Papal Embassy in Panama of Gen. Noriega, who is seeking sanctuary from American military forces.
Meanwhile, in North Hollywood, the Interact Theatre Company has survived a trauma similar to the Victory’s. The previous owners of the space on Hart Street decided to start a new theater in the East and offered the building to Interact.
During the past few months, Interact has been promoting a fund-raising campaign to accomplish that purpose. Leon Russom, an actor member of the company and president of Interact’s board of directors, said the group has raised the money to purchase the property and is awaiting paperwork from the previous owners.
But $15,000 to $20,000 is still needed, Russom said, to cover repair work. “We got the price reduced by assuming those burdens ourselves,” he said.
So, like the Victory, Interact is going to stay where it is. Russom says the building will be their home base.
The company may perform elsewhere on occasion--it might happen with their current sell-out production of “Into the Woods"--but Hart Street is where it all starts.