The Laguna Playhouse marks a milestone this fall. The venerable theatre celebrates a century in October and claims the moniker of the longest continually operating theater on the West Coast.
In October 1920, a group of Laguna Beach residents began performing plays inside local homes. Two years later, the group’s first full production, “Suppressed Desires” by Susan Glaspel, was presented in an old vulcanizing shop on Coast Highway.
In 1924, The Playhouse – built at a cost of $5,000 – opened at 319 Ocean Avenue and served as the home of The Laguna Playhouse until 1969, when the Playhouse’s current Moulton Theatre (named after the Moulton family benefactors) opened.
Over the years, a number of stars – and future stars – appeared on stage at The Laguna Playhouse. Bette Davis and Barry Sullivan performed a one-night fundraiser for Laguna Playhouse in 1960, and in 1965 a young actor named Harry Ford appears in Stephen Vincent Benet’s play John Brown’s Body at The Laguna Playhouse. He later becomes better known to millions of movie fans as Harrison Ford.
Fast forward to 2020 as the Laguna Playhouse celebrates a century. The theatre announced its 2020-2021 season earlier this year, but the pandemic forced the theatre to cancel live performances until 2021.
However, the show must go on—or in this case, the gala must go on.
The Laguna Playhouse has announced that they will be hosting their annual gala virtually on Saturday, August, 29, 2020 starting at 7 p.m. Amazingly, the gala is free to the public.
According to information released by the playhouse, the gala will be a star-studded affair. It is scheduled to include songs by opera and musical theatre performer Nathan Gunn, and a performance by the popular musical-comedy duo “The Skivvies,” featuring Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley.
The evening includes the launch of the “Keeping Live Theatre Alive” program, with never before seen original vignettes written and performed by a handful of noted actors, including Kim Brockington (“Guiding Light”), Jodi Long (Flower Drum Song), Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”), Alfred Molina (Fiddler on the Roof, “Frida”), James Pickens Jr. (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Tony Shalhoub (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” The Band’s Visit).
Closing out the evening will be a number from last year’s sold-out hit show, “Mamma Mia!” provided by Boebe Productions, LLC.
“Keeping Live Theatre Alive” comes courtesy of actor Dan Lauria (“The Wonder Years,” “Lombardi”), who called upon friends in the industry to create videos of themselves reading works they’ve written. Lauria, who has been on the Playhouse stage several times, developed this program as a way to assist smaller theaters during this difficult period.
“Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on our local theatres. I am so happy to do what I can to help the historic Laguna Playhouse during this unprecedented time,” he said.
Lugano Diamonds has donated a pair of Cognac Flower Drop earrings featuring nearly 9 carats of Rose Cut, Oval and Round Brilliant Collection VS Diamonds, all set in 18K White Gold.” Donations of $100 or more to the playhouse will be automatically entered to win the earrings, valued at over $42,500.
Sponsors of the event include Haskell & White, Irvine BMW, Lugano Diamonds and Nolet’s Gin.
The evening will include a special “raise the paddle” fundraising opportunity hosted by “The Benefit Auction Guy,” Orange County’s own Jim Nye. Money raised from this event will go directly to Laguna Playhouse and Laguna Playhouse Education and Outreach Program.
Tickets for the virtual gala are available at lagunaplayhouse.com. Tickets are free to the public, but reservations are recommended.
For more information on this virtual gala, or to view the world premiere celebrity vignettes beginning August 29, please visit lagunaplayhouse.com.