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The curtain has fallen on Malibu’s only professional theatre company.
Today, the head of Malibu Playhouse, the city’s only community theater and home to the Young Actors Project, was served a lease termination, effective immediately, and must now find a temporary home for its assets.
“It’s a disaster,” Shoshana Kuttner, executive director of the playhouse and YAP, told Surfside News. “Everybody thought it would be there forever.”
She’s hoping that the city and a GoFundMe campaign can help.
Located in the former Shepherd-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church at 29243 Pacific Coast Highway and founded in 1990 as the only local professional theatre company, Malibu Playhouse — formerly Malibu Stage Company — opened in 2002 as a 99-seat Equity theater.
“Malibu Stage Company raised a ton of money to pour into a theater,” said Kuttner. “We worked for 18 years there as Malibu Playhouse.”
The many actors who have taken its stage include Isabella Rossellini, Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Van Dyke, Kathryn Ross and Sam Elliot, Ed Asner, Graeme Clifford and Lou Gossett Jr.
The youth program was especially popular, drawing 200 children each year, classes that, in partnership with the city, are “dedicated to the growth and self-expression of young actors in a fun, exciting atmosphere that allows students to explore their own creativity and gain self-confidence.”
“Generations of children have grown up there and worked there,” said Kuttner.
The property was sold in spring 2018, and Kuttner was hopeful about working with a new landlord.
Then came a shutdown caused by the Woolsey Fire.
“But we were paying our rent and moving forward,” said Kuttner.
Then came the pandemic and the facility, again, was forced to close.
At the end of last year, Kuttner received word that the lease was ending. But she was hoping that YAP could still have a home there.
That changed today, and Kuttner was forced to make some painful phone calls.
“I just broke the news to the families ... We were in the middle of shows when the pandemic hit,” Kuttner said. “Now we need to move the stuff off the property and store it somewhere.”
Backers have already offered to help with the move, but Kuttner noted that pandemic protocols mean the job must be left to professionals — and that will take money.
On Feb. 22, the Malibu City Council will consider a $4,000 emergency general fund grant request by council member Karen Farrer for the effort. In addition, Kuttner started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $10,000.
“This is such sad news,” said Kuttner, reflecting on the events. “It was a real community space. Everybody used it.”
“Kids were expecting to go back there,” she continued, “just like they’re expecting to go back to school.”