WeHo’s Acquisition of Coast Playhouse

Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd.
Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd.

In 1948 a group of actors at Pasadena Playhouse, annoyed with the resident director, decided to start a theatre of their own. Thus was born the Players Ring Theatre, home to theatrical performances by the likes of James Arness, Roger Corman, Jack Nicholson and Marlo Thomas. (In 1951 Patty Duke began a three-year apprenticeship there).

Decades later, with slight shifts in location (from 8111 Santa Monica Blvd. to 8351 Santa Monica Blvd. to 8325 Santa Monica Blvd.) several shifts in theme (from live theatre to revival films to adult porn and back) and name (from the Players Ring to the Pan Andreas to the Gary to the Coast Playhouse) the theatre lies empty after closing last year.

But now the City of West Hollywood hopes to give it a new life. The city recently purchased the theatre for $2.5 million from its owners Mary Sweeney and Vickie Shemaria. The couple also own the Basix and Marix restaurants nearby. The goal, according to a city staff report, is to ” anchor a potential Center City Arts District in the city…” The reopened theatre also will add some vitality to a scene that has grown quiet with the move of Celebration Theatre in 2013 from West Hollywood. Now the only remaining theatre is MACHA (Mujeres (Women) Advancing Culture, History and Art) on Kings Road.

The 99-seat theatre will need some work. In an email response to questions from WEHOville, Andrew Campbell, the city’s cultural affairs administrator, and Steve Campbell, manager of the facilities and field services division, said the city will make major improvements to ensure the building complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and its various systems are operating properly.

The 99-seat layout was created to give the theatre a waiver from complying with rules of Actors Equity, the actor’s union, which exempts theatres with fewer than 100 seats. The city is likely to stick with that, but it may modify the stage and seating to provide a more flexible area.

It will be a venue for dance and possibly small musical/cabaret type performances as well as theatre.

How the theatre will be managed is still up for discussion. One possibility is having city staffers manage it. Another is leasing it to an outside performance organization that would manage the theatre and its programming. City staffers will provide the City Council with details about both of those options at an upcoming meeting. The city is unable to predict when the building will reopen until renovation plans are completed.

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Bruce Kimmel
Bruce Kimmel
6 years ago

So Patty Duke began a three-year apprentice at the Player’s Ring in 1951 did she, at the ripe old age of five? Please.

J Simmons
J Simmons
6 years ago

Why do I get the feeling, we will be seeing another GIANT mixed use project where the theater now stands??? The City bought it up fast and according to this article has (and didn’t even make a project plan before buying it (or anything of a multimillion dollar cost … without pre rezearch and pre planning).???

Who knows? The City apparently doesn’t.

Christian hirko
Christian hirko
6 years ago

Rent it to the Celebration theater group. The only gay theater company in LA

Creative One
Creative One
6 years ago

Use the current Gelson’s as museum/art space. Move the supermarket to the pit at SMB/Crescent Heights.

Art
Art
6 years ago

I’m curious what else they will purchase in order to anchor a potential Center City Arts District?

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
6 years ago

How great is this!!! Maybe we can entice the Celebration Theatre to make it their home space??
And Larry Block….there is no commercial rent control in West Hollywood….doubt there ever will be (or should…free market capitalism does have its place……)

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
6 years ago

This is great; too bad the best theater takes place at the City Council Chambers; maybe we should hold the meetings at the Coast Playhouse. Of course at a theater the drama takes place on the stage; at City Council meetings the comedy takes place both in front of and behind the podium.

Joking aside, this is a wonderful acquisition for the City and the City Council should be proud of their decision.

William Margold
6 years ago

What would be a better choice is the creation of a bright new play based on the adventures of the amusingly promoted Insurance company that advertises on this page: REAR ENDED. Of course…no question mark would be needed.

Showbiz Lady
Showbiz Lady
6 years ago

We think the perfect first play would be Paul Zindel’s : “And Ms. Reardon Drinks as Little. “. There are four ladies who regularly appear to Council who would be wonderful!

Jimmy Palmieri
6 years ago

I have seen many shows at this theater. Valley of the dolls being a memorable one, where Patty Duke sat and laughed along with Lee Grant. I am glad weho now has purchased it. Let’s clean it up, make it smell better, and get a show in there soon!

Christopher
Christopher
6 years ago

Interesting idea, but I must make one correction to the story. Patty Duke could not have begun a three-year apprenticeship with the theatre in 1951. She was only five at the time. Her stage debut was made in 1955 in New York City, which was her home and the base of her acting career until the early sixties.

luca d
luca d
6 years ago

this is a good thing. very happy it will be a part of the city for many years to come.

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