Children’s theater company halfway to city’s deadline


Enchanted Playhouse plans two events, online campaign to raise $50,000 down payment to purchase Main Street Theater

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

VISALIA – It’s been six weeks since the Visalia City Council gave the Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company (ETPC) a 90-day reprieve to save its theater. Now half-way toward its deadline, the ETPC has raised just under $2,500 toward its goal of a $50,000 down payment on the Main Street Theater. 

Luckily, the money raised on its page is just one part of Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company’s multi-pronged campaign to raise the money. Shanna Meier, communications coordinator for the all-volunteer theater company, said EPTC has scheduled two fund-raisers before the deadline to help meet their goal to purchase the theater, located at 300 E. Main St., and preserve it for future generations of live performances. Admission is a donation of your choosing.

The first fund-raiser, titled Friends of Enchanted Art Showcase, will be held on Sept. 15 at the theater from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will feature song and dance performances by Kids Edition, a buccaneer’s boot camp, a kids clothing store, food trucks and a bake sale. Attending the event will be special guests Captain Jack Sparrow and Tinkerbell. 

The second fund-raiser will be a concert on Oct. 20 at the theater featuring the Valley’s most well-known cover band, Run4Cover. Tickets are $20 to $25 per person. 

Earlier this month the campaign received a boost from a celebrity who got her start at the Main Street Theater. Broadway star Betsy Wolfe threw her support behind EPTC’s effort with this Aug. 13 post: “This place is special. My love and passion for theatre was first cultivated with this company. My memories are those of a sense of belonging, growth and exploration that only the Enchanted Playhouse was able to create. My earliest memories of performing were with this company and I was so excited when they found this home. It’s not just about this space, it’s really about the community it provides to those who become part of its family. Also, my mom designed and helped execute the interior and exterior design so I’m pretty freaking proud. Donate what you can.”

Wolfe is the EPTC’s most famous alumna as she continues to be a sought after talent on Broadway. She recently finished starring in the Tony nominated musical “Waitress,” on the heels of playing Cordelia, one of the lovable “lesbians from next door,” in the Broadway revival of Falsettos, which recently aired on PBS. She is perhaps best known for her critically acclaimed performance as Cathy in the Off-Broadway revival of “The Last Five Years.” Betsy’s other Broadway credits include Ellen in the 2014 production of Bullets Over Broadway and Rosa Bud in the revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  

Meier said they are also seeking corporate sponsors for their upcoming events and productions which include advertising in the playbill, their name on the marquee and free tickets to the show. 

“We are working hard to take the opportunity the city has given us,” Meier said. “We are very hopeful we will submit a good offer and get this place up and running.”

Meier said the volunteers, board members and parents were optimistic they could raise money between all of their fund-raisers because of the impact that EPTC has had on not only Visalia but Tulare County. As the only dedicated children’s theater in the Central Valley, they exposed more than 14,000 children to live performances at local schools last year alone. Over the past two decades, the Main Street Theater has played host to more than 2,000 performances by the Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company (EPTC) exposing over 300,000 students to live theater.

“If everyone who has been involved with the theater gave a few dollars we would have more than enough,” she said. 

About 25 current actors, parents and volunteers spoke at the Visalia City Council’s July 16 meeting to block the sale of the Main Street Theater. The Council narrowly voted 3-2 to delay the sale of the theater, marked for development as a restaurant, for 90 days to allow EPTC time to come up with a down payment. Even if EPTC comes up with the money they will still require funding to bring the building up to code, a figure they are still trying to nail down. Meier said they will need to make restrooms wheelchair accessible, install a new heating and air conditioning unit, and restore the exterior of the building.

“If we are able to buy it, we want to make sure it shines like it used to,” she said.

Purchasing the theater was EPTC’s intent all along but the theater company never had the funding to purchase the building. The City of Visalia acquired the Main Street Theater through eminent domain in 2003 on behalf of EPTC, which had until May 31, 2004 to purchase the building. 

The city began leasing the Main Street Theater to EPTC on Aug. 1, 2004 after the theater company failed to come up with the down payment. The month-to-month lease was for $3,000 per month in addition to utilities, which was lowered to $2,000 per month last year after EPTC fell behind on payments. 

Donating to the EPTC’s campaign would also preserve a historic landmark. The 8,500-square foot theater was originally built in 1949 as a movie house and is only one of five buildings with the unique domed honeycombed ceiling design to still exist in the country. The unique barrel roof covers most of the building and rises to a crown height of nearly 28 feet. There is a marquee sign attached to the front of the building over the ticket booth. It features a double-sided sign face with internal illumination. The architect of the theater is believed to have been S. Charles Lee who was a prominent motion picture theater designer in Los Angeles during the 1930s and 1940s.

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