OCEANSIDE — The Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously Aug. 11 to recommend to City Council that the Oceanside Theatre Company lease the city owned Sunshine Brooks Theatre. If city council approves the recommendation, it will push the New Vision Theatre Group out of the space after running the theater for six years.
The commission noted Oceanside Theatre Company’s passion, energy, the vast experience of its board of directors, and the desire to create community synergy through the arts as reasons for favoring the theater company.
The commission criticized the New Vision Theatre Group for the lack of details in its proposal to show evidence of its sustainability and its focus on participation over the quality of performances.
John Kalb, who co-owns the New Vision Theatre Group with his wife Yolanda Kalb, said that the decision to choose the Oceanside Theatre Company was based solely on the theater company’s proposal. No commission members have attended performances given by the New Vision Theatre Group. Kalb added the theater group’s six-year stay shows its sustainability.
“We had six years of excellent reviews and all of a sudden we’re fired,” John Kalb said. “The city has given us numerous requirements and every year we have exceeded those requirements.”
Both theater groups offered the city the same amount in rent. The New Vision Theatre Group has the advantage of six years of investment in props, costumes and equipment that will not be an extra budget cost.
Both theater groups promised to produce a minimum of five plays per season and offer workshops and classes.
One area where they differ is in their focus on youth productions. The Oceanside Theatre Company proposed youth classes and at least one youth production a year. The New Vision Theatre Group said the downtown location of the theater sandwiched between four bars is not a fit setting for youth productions.
Kalb said he sees the aspirations of the New Vision Theatre Group as close to his. Upon getting to know the community and downtown area his vision for the theater has changed.
“You need to consider is it really the best use of the Sunshine Brooks Theatre,” Kalb said.
The New Vision Theatre Group has run the Sunshine Brooks Theatre as a community inclusive theater that practices open casting calls and allows first time performers to take to the stage. Supporters of the New Vision Theatre Group gave it kudos for the opportunity to participate in its high quality productions.
“The New Vision Theatre Group let me grow in knowledge, in makeup, in hair, in acting,” said Savannah Fairchild-Lowe, of Oceanside. “They gave knowledge and experience to people who would not normally have an opportunity. They created a family for me.”
The New Vision Theatre Group has held plays, music performances film festivals and a wide variety of community-generated entertainment such as poetry nights, open mic nights and band nights at the theater.
The past six years of running the theater have not been without trials. Adequate facility heating and cooling, electrical and sewer line repairs, ample parking, and neighborhood safety have been dealt with over the years.
In 2010 the group acquired and put $5,000 of renovations into the adjacent city owned storefront to use as class space.
This was also the year the city shortened the New Vision Theatre Group’s lease to one-year and gave the theater group notification that it put out a request for proposals.
The Oceanside Theatre Company was established a year ago. The board of eight directors is hailed as “the dream team” due to their experience as instructors, theater professionals, children’s theater instructors and business owners.
Oceanside Theatre Company board president Naomi Olson emphasized the high quality work, interest and buzz, and growth in attendance the company will bring to the theater.
“The Oceanside Theatre Company may be a new group, but they have decades of experience,” said Tom Brault, actor and Oceanside resident. “If you wanted a dream team to form a theater these are the people you would call.”
If awarded the lease, the Oceanside Theatre Company will continue many of the current theater programs such as concerts, film festivals and comedy nights. The theater company also proposes to display the work of local artists in the lobby, host a “dinner and a show” program, and give workshops that teach all facets of theater performance and production.
The Oceanside Theatre Company hopes to secure the lease and have a community meet and greet to introduce its programs in early October.