Monday, May 21 , 2018, 3:36 pm | Mostly Cloudy 68º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Ensemble Theatre Breaks Ground on ‘New Vic’ Venue

Renovations are under way after $8.5 million is raised to give the theater company a new home

Nearly 10 years after the Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara began planning and designing a new permanent venue, ground was finally broken at 33 W. Victoria St. on Thursday, officially making the 80-year old Victoria Hall Theater Ensemble’s new home.

An artist's rendition of the exterior of the New Vic theater.
An artist’s rendition of the exterior of the New Vic theater.

The New Vic is the final piece needed to complete the City of Santa Barbara’s long-term vision for a professional performing arts district available to serve the broader arts community.

With a 12- to 14-month building timeline, Ensemble plans to have a grand opening of its modern, intimate 300-seat theater at the New Vic in the fall of 2013.

“We are going to be able to expand the number of productions we do, and still rent out the theater to other nonprofit performing arts organizations almost half the nights of the year at affordable rates,” said Derek Westen, co-chairman of Ensemble Theatre at the New Vic Leadership project. “We think it will have a great transforming effect, and we’ll just use the hell out of it.”

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Westen announced that Ensemble’s New Vic campaign had just finished raising more than $8.5 million in donations from various individuals, foundations and organizations, placing the group at 81 percent of its final fundraising goal of $10.5 million.

The donations will go primarily toward renovation and planning costs, as well as operations and program support for the New Vic campaign. In addition, Ensemble Theatre received $4.45 million in endowment and reserves, which will be used for affordable admission prices, youth outreach and educational programs, and financial stability.

Mayor Helene Schneider, and City Council members Grant House, Cathy Murrillo and Randy Rowse attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

Schneider publicly congratulated the Ensemble Theatre Company and its New Vic campaign for making the building project a reality, especially after overcoming certain city planning hurdles, and reassured the group that its check for $1 million from the Redevelopment Agency of Santa Barbara is secure.

Schneider also commended the group for receiving unanimous approval from the Historic Landmarks Committee of Santa Barbara for construction on the entry and stage-house portions of the building, while preserving the historically important exterior architecture.

Christine Holland, president of Ensemble Theatre’s board of directors, thanked all of the supporters, enthusiasts, and visionaries involved in the New Vic project, then introduced and thanked Jonathan Fox, executive artistic director for Ensemble Theatre, for his involvement in the design phase of the new venue.

Fox acknowledged all of the great past productions the theater company has provided for the Santa Barbara community within its current venue, the Alhecama Theatre, located on 914 Santa Barbara St. Yet, he is looking forward to the new production possibilities offered by the New Vic venue.

“I am proud of the magical transformations that have taken place at our current home, but it is time for Ensemble to grow,” Fox stated. “The sophistication and professionalism of the new theater will match the sophistication and professionalism of the work on stage provided by Ensemble.”

Floor plan for the Ensemble Theatre Company's New Vic venue
Floor plan for the Ensemble Theatre Company’s New Vic venue

During the design phase, Fox worked closely with PMSM Architects, a Santa Barbara firm, to create a more functional space while leaving most of the exterior intact, including the stained-glass windows and current stage dimensions.

“The fact that it was a working theater really helped,” said Fox. “It saved a lot of development work rather than working from scratch, but a lot of it does need to be freshened up.”

With plans to create a new stage house, widen the wings, and provide state-of-the-art lighting and sound technology, Ensemble will be able to put on more musicals and plays with dance performances, which Fox believes will enhance the type of work and artists Ensemble brings to Santa Barbara.

“From an audience perspective, there will be a huge increase in comfort level, great sight lines with the sloping of seating, and terrific acoustics,” added Fox. “The building itself will feel professional, comfortable, and fun to be in, a great match to the work being done inside.”

Ensemble Theatre Company’s 33rd season will run from Oct. 4 through June 23, 2013, and it will be its final season at the Alhecama Theatre.

Noozhawk intern Amanda Garcia can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook. height=

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >