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Morgan Hill
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October 16, 2021

Curtain rises on theater – will the audience come?

Well, the moment of truth is upon us. Questions of whether a
town the size of Morgan Hill (35,000) can support a regional
theatrical playhouse will be answered in the next few months. The
Morgan Hill Community Playhouse will open this Friday night at 6:30
p.m. and all comers are invited to share the second grand opening
of a public facility in two months. City officials and theater
enthusiasts expect great things. So what have we wrought?
Well, the moment of truth is upon us. Questions of whether a town the size of Morgan Hill (35,000) can support a regional theatrical playhouse will be answered in the next few months.

The Morgan Hill Community Playhouse will open this Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and all comers are invited to share the second grand opening of a public facility in two months. City officials and theater enthusiasts expect great things. So what have we wrought?

It does open on a positive note with its own resident theater group – South Valley Civic Theatre, around which all other bookings will be scheduled.

There is no doubt that the somewhat decrepit church building (1924) that stood next to the old Morgan Hill Elementary School for its entire life span is entering a new and more glorious -though less spiritual – phase.

Partly because the acting and play-watching public clamored for a dedicated theater and partly because the City Council includes Larry Carr – one of those enthusiasts – the council decided to buy and renovate the old church, to the tune of $2.5 million. It was moved a few feet north to accommodate a Gavilan College building and became the third leg of the community center at Monterey Road and East Dunne Avenue.

But fewer than 190 people can be squeezed into its hall – far fewer than the Gilroy High School theater where SVCT has been performing recently, awaiting this space. The city recreation department, which oversees bookings of the community center and the playhouse, says that inquiries are many and they don’t expect the stage to be dark too often. Whew!

Because of the building’s history as a church, several of the inquiries have been from small church groups -thinking about meeting there on Sunday mornings, even though the floor is now on a theatrical slant instead of flat or tiered. It is also a perfect venue for small concerts, piano and dance recitals – the stage is deep, if not terribly wide. The public should bring its creative ideas to the grand opening ceremony Friday and think of other ways the place could be put to use. If rentals don’t cover the cost of maintenance and operation, the taxpayers will. The rental cost structure has not yet been set.

The architectural firm ELS designed and supervised the project – Greg True was the architect – and Kent Construction of Gilroy did the actual hands-on work. Both report that, while renovating an old building to a new purpose is fraught with the usual difficulties, this project was relatively conflict free. Everyone – architect and city appear pleased with the building.

So are we. We think the challenges of blending the old with the new were met creatively and artistically. The architect said there should be a little moment of delight inside. There is. Long may it wave.

Inquiries about renting the Morgan Hill Playhouse are handled by the City’s Recreation Department, 782-0008. The Morgan Hill Community Center (and Playhouse) also has its own website: www.mhcommunity-center.com

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