Historic L.A. Theatre Closing? We’ll see about that.
For those of you who have never been to the Stage Door Theatre in Agoura Hills, Calif., try to visualize an old, 50-seat theatre tucked into the rolling, majestic hills of Agoura. The theatre’s seats might be a bit faded, and the dressing-room ceiling might need repainting, but it has been my home for the last three months.
The other afternoon, after a nearly sold-out Sunday matinee performance of Jay Allen’s 40 Carats, we were called into the small dressing room by one of Stage Door’s owners, Gale Trombeaux. Through tear-filled eyes she explained to the cast how much this theatre meant to her and how it has been her second home for over 28 years. She then explained that the former owner of the property passed away last year and the new building owner has chosen to no longer rent it out. The run of this current show (Aug. 1–Sept. 13) will be the last play produced at the Stage Door Theatre.
Gale Trombeaux and Mike Monteleone have been producing shows at the Stage Door since almost before I was born. Their love for the theatre is equaled only by their obvious love for each other. The shows they’ve produced range from American dramas like On Golden Pond to British comedies like No Sex Please, We’re British. And the building has been in existence since the early 1900s. It used to be a filling station on the original Route 66. Walking through the parking lot, you might even catch sight of a rabbit or two.
I drive up the 101 freeway to Agoura Hills sometimes six days a week—with gas prices what they are—because I love working at this quiet, charming, quaint little place. It means something to me. Any actor who has done any type of live theatre knows exactly what I mean. The knowledge, skills, and rewards to be gained from doing live theatre are indescribable.
I work in an office in the San Fernando Valley to pay the bills, but acting has always been my first love. Although I like my 9-to-5 job okay, it’s an amazing release to go from working at a desk all day to working on the amazing 9-by-13-foot stage of this theatre. It has given me a freedom that I never thought I could have again after a five-year absence from acting to pursue a “safe job.” I would be remiss if I did not do my part to help save this theatre.
I have always been of the mind that the Los Angeles theatre community is stronger than we are given credit for. It would be a waste and a shame to see a historic L.A.-area theatre disappear into obscurity over housing issues. The rewards and knowledge I have gained from working on 40 Carats for the last three months can never be repaid. These words are only a small step. Mike and Gale, this is my gift to you in thanks for all your theatre has given me.
This is me—an unknown actor—calling the theatre community to come together to help save a historic theatrical landmark, which means so much to so many people. L.A. needs its theatre industry just as much as it needs its film and television industry. I know there is someone reading this right now who can help. Since the last performance is slated for Sept. 13, I feel as if time is of the utmost importance. Thanks for reading. I ask for any and all help you can give me to keep the Stage Door alive.
-- Brett Chapin
Brett Chapin is a graduate of the conservatory and repertory theatre programs at the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, Calif. His favorite roles include Dewey Maples in The Diviners at the Vanguard Theatre in Fullerton, Calif., and Peter Latham in 40 Carats at the Stage Door. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Stage Door Theatre, visit www.logix.com/stagedoor.