Playhouse makes debut

New home to South Valley Civic Theater opens next Friday at MH
cultural center
By SHERRY HEMINGWAY
Pinnacle Correspondent
Another opening, another show.
The opening of the $3 million Morgan Hill Community Playhouse
Jan. 31 will mark the second major cultural venue to open in as
many months at the newly-vibrant corner of Monterey and Dunne.
New home to South Valley Civic Theater opens next Friday at MH cultural center

By SHERRY HEMINGWAY

Pinnacle Correspondent

Another opening, another show.

The opening of the $3 million Morgan Hill Community Playhouse Jan. 31 will mark the second major cultural venue to open in as many months at the newly-vibrant corner of Monterey and Dunne.

The historic church-turned-playhouse becomes Morgan Hill’s second new public building in three decades. It also provides a much needed home for the itinerant South Valley Civic Theater, as well as availability for other public functions.

The 80-year-old building served a number of church denominations until it was recently moved, restored and doubled in size to become an intimate 187-seat theater. Its site is immediately north the new Gavilan College building within the new Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center.

Two grand opening events mark the celebration. The first is the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. next Friday, followed by a reception with a harpist and refreshments. The event is free and open to the public.

A ticketed “performance sampler” follows one hour later at 7:30 p.m. in the playhouse with a variety of entertainers. The series of short programs features Opera San Jose, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, South Valley Civic Theater, Mes Amis String Trio and acoustic folk musicians Alisa Fineman and Kimball Hurd. Tickets are available for a $5 donation in advance either by mail, in person at the Morgan Hill Community Center box office or with a credit card at 408-842-SHOW.

The playhouse opens for business a week later when the South Valley Civic Theater stakes its claim as the resident company with the opening of the adult farce “Lend Me A Tenor,” which runs Feb. 7 through Mar. 1. Tickets are available from 842-SHOW and performance information is on the Web site: www.svct.org.

The playhouse is the latest step in Morgan Hill’s major building program, launched by voter approval on a 1996 advisory ballot. The first of those buildings, the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center, opened its doors in December.

The city acquired the 1920’s church and property in a swap that gave the Temple Emmanuel congregation $900,000 and a new site on Butterfield Blvd., where a new church that is double in size is being constructed.

Architecturally, the new playhouse maintains the scale of the 3,000-square-foot original building, while adding 4,000 square feet of additional spaces for the stage and ancillary rooms.

“The former sanctuary will continue its historic function as a place for gathering as an auditorium, but the new stage replaces the chancel,” according to Greg True, architect for ELS Architecture and Urban Design in Berkeley. “It is an historic work and we tried to keep that spirit, while inserting a theater into an older building.”

The theater is considered very intimate, with a large stage area in proportion to the number of seats and the depth of the theater. The distance from the stage to the back row is 40 feet. The building utilizes historic seats from a theater in Campbell that were sent across the country for renovation and new green fabric.

The new theater is a dream come true for the 30-year-old South Valley Civic Theater, which has been challenged to present theater in ever-changing venues such as storefronts, high schools and the Pumpkin Patch.

“The playhouse is about perfect for the kind of shows we want to put on,” said Peter Mandel, a board member for the theater company.

The playhouse can be rented through the city for meetings and seminars for $30 – $75 per hour, depending upon whether the organization is non-profit or a business.

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