Final curtain call for Civic Theatre West

Theater company can’t come up with money needed to reopen
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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After nearly a month of trying to save Civic Theatre West, the defunct theater group fell short of its goal Wednesday. The nonprofit organization, and formerly the second-largest community theater in California, needed to raise $350,000 by Dec. 15 to become financially solvent, but only ended up receiving about $57,000, said board of directors President Calvin Stevens. This means the 23-year-old institution remains shuttered. The board announced the initial closure Nov. 10, citing $500,000 of debt, and a week later launched the pledge drive. Stevens said all the pledges will be erased. The board plans to release an official statement regarding the closure next week. “When we started the pledge drive, I was naively optimistic,” Stevens said Thursday. “Now, I’m just exhausted. I feel empty.” Although about 150 donors, including individuals, families and local businesses, contributed to the cause, much-needed big-ticket donors failed to manifest with large companies choosing not to open their checkbooks and the City of Roseville declining to help monetarily. But Stevens said the high number of donors signaled to him that people wanted to save the theater company, but couldn’t afford to give large amounts of money. Theatergoer Steve Pounds contributed $2,000. He discovered Civic Theatre West, formerly called Magic Circle Theatre, a decade ago while living in Roseville. Although now a Lincoln resident, he was still a regular patron. “I’m disappointed,” Pounds said. “The community is losing a great asset and something it definitely needed. Live theater is such a wonderful experience.” The last show he saw was “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which earned a standing ovation. He thinks Civic Theatre West was, unfortunately, the best-kept secret in Roseville. Pounds said he understands people are struggling to make ends meet in the current economic recession, but wishes more people would have stepped up to the plate. “We’re probably the wealthiest community in the region,” he said. “It’s sad we couldn’t find 350 people to donate $1,000. If I had significant wealth, I would have funded the whole thing myself, I feel it’s so worthwhile.” The renovation of Roseville Theater earlier this decade contributed to the organization’s mounting debt, after the board of directors agreed to raise money independently to cover the cost, rather than using normal theater revenue, such as ticket sales. But the board failed to raise the money. In the past couple years, Civic Theatre West made changes intended to save money and stave off insolvency, which the board said included canceling its contract with LMC Theatrical Management, operated by Magic Circle founders Bob and Rosemarie Gerould. But others said the Geroulds were forced out because they preferred the theater stay small, while the board opted for a bigger — and more expensive — vision. “People want to point fingers,” Pounds said. “Some say it was bad management, but some board members have only been there for a year or two, so you can’t really blame them.” Civic Theatre West had been running the largest children’s theater workshop in the state. A large donation by Granite Bay residents Steve and Renee Nash allowed for the kids’ holiday show, “A Furrytale Christmas” to go on as planned. Michelle Raskey, former program director at Civic Theatre West, said Thursday that she and former children’s musical director Jennifer Vaughn are finalizing their corporation papers to start their own business exclusively for children’s workshops called the Roseville Theatre Arts Academy. The Alternative Arts Collective will temporarily host their shows at a venue in Royer Park until a permanent location can be secured. “My heart is sad that this chapter of my life for the past 20 years is going to have to close,” Raskey said. “But I’ve been overwhelmed by the support of parents and their desire for us to continue providing this educational service to the community. We just feel so motivated and excited to start this new adventure.” Meanwhile, though, other theatergoers are mourning the loss of their local theater company. “It’s not like a business going down,” Pounds said. “That’s sad, too. But (Civic Theatre West) was not in it for the money. This is a piece of our heart we’re losing.” Sena Christian can be reached at