Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, April 7 @ 2:56 p.m.

City, LRT Partnership Hope Storage Agreement Leads To Future Venue for Theater Group, Brighter Future for Cultural Center

They're able to store stuff now, but LRT hopes an agreement with the city leads to a future venue for its plays. File photo: Andrew Goff

LRT logo

Crescent City and Lighthouse Repertory Theatre hope a request to store equipment, props and sets at the Cultural Center will lead to a potential future venue for the nonprofit.

The six-month license agreement with LRT that Councilors unanimously approved Monday is a small start, but City Manager Eric Wier said he imagined dinner theaters, youth performances, matinees and live shows during the 4th of July.

“To have those performances really are what a small town is all about and what the Cultural Center was originally designed for,” he said.

LRT, which also holds youth performances, is approaching its 43rd anniversary, Executive Director David McPhail said. The organization has been on sabbatical during the COVID-19 pandemic, having to put a couple productions on hold. As LRT looks at the prospect of starting live performances again, McPhail told the Wild Rivers Outpost the organization hopes to spearhead use of the Cultural Center.

McPhail said he also envisions dinner theater.

“When we had closed we had a couple plays in the wings. We might revamp them and maybe hopefully we’ll be opening up at the end of the year,” he said. “Maybe we’ll have a December/Christmas play event and then, hopefully, in the beginning of 2022 we’ll resume our normal scheduling for theater shows.”

LRT had held productions at the Crescent Elk Middle School auditorium up until a few years ago. According to McPhail, having a theater organization that needs to practice sometimes every single night for six weeks isn’t doable because at the school “because they’re busy.”

LRT had also been working to renovate the old Red’s Showcase Twin Cinemas on G Street in Crescent City for several years, but about two years ago decided to sell the building, McPhail said.

“It was going to be financially too much money to convert it into a usable theater with all the California regulations,” he said. “As the president at the time, I went to the board and said it was in our best interest basically — ‘We can’t afford this high mortgage; it would basically put us bankrupt,’ — we decided unanimously to put it on the market.”

Up until the pandemic, LRT had a home at the old Daly’s and Ben Franklin buildings, McPhail said. Property owner TAB & Associates had let the organization use the buildings for free.

“That was a great help for us to get financially back on our feet,” he said.

On Monday, Crescent City Mayor Pro Tem Blake Inscore, who, along with Wier, met with McPhail and the LRT board of directors, said he was impressed with the organization as a way to be connected to the community for youth and adults — even if they work backstage. He said the Cultural Center has been under used for about a generation and hopes that LRT’s presence can “give new life” to the facility.

“There was a time back in the ‘70s where it was the up and coming place to have an event, but that waned a long time ago,” Inscore said of the Cultural Center. “At the same time we’re talking about rebuilding Beachfront Park, why not have people coming to an event at the Cultural Center — people coming to see a play or a musical or whatever’s going on.”

Wier said the city will work with LRT to ensure that it can still rent the Cultural Center for local events like CASA of Del Norte’s annual fundraiser, the Crystal Ball. LRT also has its own insurance that will provide coverage, he said.

“The agreement itself is a six-month agreement,” Wier said. “Hopefully, that gives them a place to store things and time to work through components of the bigger picture.”


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