Last November, the Balboa Performing Arts Theatre Foundation, the nonprofit organization guiding the rebirth of the historic Balboa Village Theatre, voted to dissolve the board, except for the Chairman of the Board Dr. Donald Hecht. The board also encouraged Hecht to build a new board and revision the theatre.
Both of those directives are coming to fruition with the announcement last week of a transition board of directors and the creation of a new business plan and theatre design.
The transition board of directors will serve until December 31 and assist with recruitment of a larger operating board.
The transition board includes Evelyn Hart, former mayor of Newport Beach; Janet Ray, Vice Chair of ArtsOC; Tod White, PhD, a long time Balboa resident; Susan Seely, chief of staff at Olive Tree Initiative, UCI; Alison Ryffel, Balboa Realty and President of Balboa Peninsula Point Association; and Balboa Village Theatre President and CEO Dr. Steven Beazley, former CEO of OC Fair.
Hart was announced several weeks ago as the first new board addition, and said at that time that the reopening of the theatre was “an idea whose time has come—I have reviewed the business plan and newly completed theatre design plan and believe the vision for the theatre is both compelling and practical.”
In addition to the transition board, the theatre is seeking volunteers to serve on an advisory board to assist in strategic planning, trendspotting and community engagement.
Beazley said that he plans to present an updated business plan and design to the city council, who has offered a $2 million match challenge grant to the theatre foundation.
However, Beazley said there may not be much point in opening a theater unless Balboa Village is rehabilitated.
“I went to a Balboa Village Action Committee meeting, and the words used to describe the village were heartbreaking,” said Beazley. “They called it dilapidated, dark, dirty, unappealing. The general consensus is that the village is not a lost cause but needs a lot of help. A theater cannot solve all the problems. In fact, a theater may not be able to solve any problems if people come to the theater but don’t like the place they are in.”
Beazley said the effort to open the theater goes hand in hand with revitalizing the village, hence the theatre’s motto “It takes a theatre to raise a village.”
“We’ve been putting the theater first, but the village needs attention, for the residents and business owner’s sake, for the appeal of coming to the village. People may not want to drive down here unless there is great appeal for the area in which the theatre sits. During the day it’s okay, but the village has no nightlife to it. The village needs to be addressed at night. The vibrancy of the village at night is key to this theatre working. And people who may not support the arts are interested in donating to the theatre if it will help revitalize the village. We plan to have shows that last 90 minutes, so people need a three hour experience of dinner before the show, maybe a drink after, an art walk, stroll on the pier.”
Bottom line, said Beazley—the city needs to hit the first serve. “There’s no point in having a theatre unless something is done in the village.”
Originally opened in 1928 as the Ritz Theater (a vaudeville house and silent movie palace), the theatre changed its name in 1939 to The Balboa Theatre. The theatre closed its doors in 1992. In 1996, the Balboa Theater Performing Arts Foundation was formed to renovate the theater.
After several different business plans and designs, rhe renamed Balboa Village Theatre is now envisioned to be a 300-seat, multi-use facility.
For more information, visit balboavillagetheatre.org.