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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