Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> NEWHALL SCHOOLS

Newhall School Auditorium Rises Anew
Age-old theater hosts its first stage production of the modern era.


About the Newhall Elementary School Auditorium

Built in the early 1930s, the Art-Deco style auditorium is said to have been the site of silent film screenings presented by "Two-Guns" Bill Hart himself for a nickel day during the Great Depression.

But when the building burned down under mysterious circumstances in the famous Valentine Day fire of Tuesday, Feb. 14, 1939, the community rallied together to raise the $110,000 in funds needed to bring the community's only public assembly and entertainment facility back to life.

T.M. Frew, then-president of the board of trustees of the Newhall school board, outlined the preliminary plans for the construction of the new auditorium designed by Glendale based architect, H. E Hansen. The board unanimously approved the plans which were set into motion in March of 1940 after the Board approved the sale of two bonds. With the help of the WPA, the resurrection of the auditorium would become a reality. The original plans of a copper roof and elaborate details, were scaled down due to tight funding. Construction of the concrete and steel earthquake resistant structure would be complete in 1941.

The Newhall Auditorium was officially dedicated on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 1941, in front of a crowd of nearly 400 guests. One guest noted that the seating capacity of 700 seats made the large crowd seem small when compared to past gatherings.

Principal L.C. Dalbey presided over the festivities. The occasion also marked the close of nine years of service of Frew. Newhall School district Superintendent A. R. Clinton, and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, The Womans Club, The American Legion, the Kiwanis Club. Numerous prominent citizens were in attendance as well. The dedication closed with the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" with a PTA desert reception to follow. For the community of Newhall, the glory days of the Newhall Auditorium would bring 36 years of children's laughter and priceless memories.

Margie Anne Clark

Like the mythical Phoenix, the Newhall Auditorium has risen from the ashes more than once in its lifetime.

"It's been a long, hard journey, but so worthwhile," said local actress Katherine Lench as she portrayed a circa 1940-50's era student of Newhall Elementary School by the name of Kelly.

Lench, a member of the Showdown Stage Co., along with the rest of the troupe, brought to life a nostalgic collage of memories about the Art-Deco style auditorium, by former Newhall Elementary School students of the 1940s, '50s, '60s and '70s.

The event was a part of Theater Arts for Children Foundation's presentation of "Once Timeless Night" at the Newhall Auditorium on Nov. 17.

Cindy Marcus, co-director of the Showdown Stage Co. served as the emcee for the evening. She recounted a brief history of the auditorium from it's early beginnings to the present.

"This place was everything from a cafeteria to a classroom, to a venue for school and assemblies and performances," Marcus said. "A lot of memories soaked into these walls and we were lucky enough to speak with some of you and you shared your personal history with us.

As each actor stood on the elegantly framed stage during the dedication, a hush fell upon the audience as Lench continued her monologue. The music of the Showdown Boys accompanied each act.

"I started Kindergarten here," Kelly continued. "My mom did her student teaching here. For school assemblies, I remember doing fashion shows...we'd make all these outfits and model them for the school...

"When I walked in here tonight, the smell hit me and so many memories flooded over me ... my mom and I working in this very room ... me and my mom. My own kids had all graduated 6th grade here and I'm standing on the stage trying to make a speech, and...and..." Kelly's daughter, played by Monet Lerner, walked onto the stage.

"My mom couldn't finish her speech that night, so I finished it for her because I knew how she felt. She shared it with her mom, I shared it with my mom and with any luck, maybe I can share it with my kids."

* * *

The event ushered in a new era for the Newhall Auditorium and marked the first public performance at the venue in 28 years. The year 1975 marked new growth in the school district with many new schools on the drawing board. The old auditorium closed it doors that year to accommodate much needed storage for the budding Newhall School district. Stacks of books, reams of butcher paper and school records rested quietly in the darkened auditorium in the years that followed.

But the 1994 Northridge Earthquake stirred the sleeping auditorium from its slumber and a new interest arose in restoring the beloved building to its original luster.

Interest grew into a plan of action and TAC founding members Sue Nieberger, Kimberly Wooten and Patti Rasmussen rallied the community to make their vision a reality.

"We've been working on the edge of our seats to get this auditorium up and running," said Nieberger. She thanked dozens of guests, including Marc Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School District as guest mingled on the concrete floors of the budding auditorium.

"I'm just the landlord of this place," Winger joked as he visited with former Newhall School superintendent, Michael McGrath. Also among the guests were, Dianne Van Hook, superintendent president of College of the Canyons; Bruce Fortine, COC board member and his wife, Gloria Mercado, newly elected board member of the William S. Hart Union High School District as well as outgoing Hart Board member, Phil Ellis. "I got my start in theatre here," Fortine said, "as a member of the audience."

Other guests included Linda Lambourne, field representative for U.S. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon; Santa Clarita city councilman Frank Ferry and sons; city councilwoman Marsha McLean; city councilwoman, Laurene Weste; parks commissioner, Jim McCarthy; Adele Macpherson, representing the parks, recreation and community services department. Rick Winsman and Connie Worden Roberts were among the guests in attendance. Newhall Elementary School alumna Patte Dee, executive director of the International Family Film Festival, as well as IFFF board member Chris Shoemaker also turned out to attend the event. Dee said plans are underway to use the auditorium as a venue for IFFF within the next few years.

"I remember coming across my old report card while the auditorium was still a storage facility," Dee said as she mingled with guests during the dessert and sparkling cider pre-show activities.

TAC founding member, Phil Lantis, arts and events coordinator for the city of Santa Clarita, thanked a long list of supporters who, in their own way, contributed to the success of the making the opening of the theater a reality.

About Theatre Arts for Children

Theatre Arts for Children Foundation was founded in 1995 to restore the Newhall Elementary School Auditorium into a community arts center and to provide educational opportunities for children and youth of the Santa Clarita Valley. The group currently provides arts education programs for the Child and Family Center, Redview Prep at the William S. Hart Union High School District and for the teens at the City of Santa Clarita Community Center.

For more information about TAC, call Sue Nieberger at (661) 259-5809.

Margie Anne Clark

Lantis touched on the theater's future as being a major force in the redevelopment of Newhall. TAC is currently working in partnership with Showdown Stage Co. to create a theatre season of plays and musical performances. Fundraising events are also planned to help raise funds for seat, curtains and other amenities.

"There's plenty of room for another theater and it's great to see all of the groups working to support each other," Lantis said.

Marcus said that in addition to a regular season of live shows and special events, TAC and Showdown Stage Company plans to host a teenage drama workshop along with an extensive series of New Works festival, where young actors and directors can learn their craft. A local Def Jam Poetry night for singers and songwriters is also planned.

The season is slated to open sometime in the spring of 2004 with the production of "Wild Dust," by Flip Cobbler. The Showdown Stage Company's co-founder, Dennis Poore wrote the score for "One Timeless Night." His music will be featured in the "Wild Dust" production as well.

Cobbler said his stage company was looking for a venue and TAC was looking for a company. Cobbler and Marcus share the similar professions as screenwriters for such video productions the squeals to "The Lion King," Pocahontas and a joint project in "Huckleberry Finn."

As each actor stood on the elegantly Greco-styled framed stage during the dedication, a hush fell upon the audience as Lench continued her monologue. The music of the Showdown Boys accompanied each act.

"I started Kindergarten here," Kelly continued. "My mom did her student teaching here. For school assemblies, I remember doing fashion shows...we'd make all these outfits and model them for the school...

"When I walked in here tonight, the smell hit me and so many memories flooded over me...my mom and I working in this very room ... me and my mom. My own kids had all graduated 6th grade here and I'm standing on the stage trying to make a speech, and...and..."

Kelly's daughter walked onto the stage.

"My mom couldn't finish her speech that night, so I finished it for her because I knew how she felt. She shared it with her mom, I shared it with my mom and with any lunch, maybe I can share it with my kids."


©2003 THE SIGNAL | USED BY PERMISSION | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
NEWHALL SCHOOL AUDITORIUM

thumbnail

Description of 1925 Auditorium

thumbnail

1926 Graduation Ceremony

thumbnail

School Plays 4/1929

thumbnail

Warehouse 2/1996

thumbnail

Warehouse 5/1996

Story 11-8-1997


Story 11-30-2003


thumbnail

Exteriors 7-15-2014

thumbnail

Interiors 7-15-2014

thumbnail

Refurbishment
2015-2016

thumbnail

Rebirth 10/26/2017 Video

RETURN TO TOP ]   RETURN TO MAIN INDEX ]   PHOTO CREDITS ]   BIBLIOGRAPHY ]   BOOKS FOR SALE ]
SCVHistory.com is another service of SCVTV, a 501c3 Nonprofit • Site contents ©SCVTV • Additional copyrights apply