Leon Worden

Variety show to benefit Hart auditorium

Leon Worden · April 16, 1997

The Northridge earthquake is little more than a faded memory to most Santa Claritans. Lives are long back to normal, insurance claims settled, federal assistance received and buildings rebuilt. Look around Santa Clarita and you'll see a thriving suburban metropolis where schools are overflowing with children, malls are packed with shoppers and streets are jammed with people rushing (?) off to work.

But look closer and you'll see areas that literally fell through the cracks. More than three years later, homes in our poorer neighborhoods are splintered and abandoned. Commercial structures on San Fernando Road are cracked and vacant. And one public building in particular -- one which has meant a great deal to a lot of people over the years -- is a mere shell of its former self.

The Hart High auditorium is in bad shape. The 900-plus seats were ripped out after the 1994 temblor shook the asbestos ceiling tiles loose. Broken equipment litters the floor. Soon, the first class since 1952 will graduate without ever using the wonderful old theater.

By now you've seen the ads or read the news stories about "Ordinary Miracles," tonight's fund raiser for the auditorium. Consider this a reminder that it starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Golden Bear Theater at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Tickets range from $5 to $25 and can be purchased at the door.

Event organizers promise a lively 2½-hour variety show with over 50 acts featuring the talents of grade schoolers to senior citizens. All four high schools and most other SCV schools are sending performers, a sign of just how well the Hart auditorium has served the entire valley during its lifetime. More than a high school stage, it has been a venue for everything from community theatre to public assemblies to valley-wide jazz invitationals.

As a fund raiser, tonight's event could really help add some things that the school district's insurance policy probably won't cover, such as air conditioning and an upgraded electrical system. The true financial test will come next month when a settlement conference determines whether the district's insurance carrier will foot the $2.2 million earthquake repair bill. The district filed suit against the balking insurance carrier in September.

Money aside, tonight's variety show is expected to galvanize community support for the theater and remind people what they've been missing for these past three years. "From that standpoint the show is already a success," says chairwoman Sue Trock, who plans to make it an annual event. "Next year we'll have it in the Hart auditorium!"

Trock's timetable might be ambitious, but not overly so. We'll see more attention paid to our local school theaters this November when a three-day country fair sponsored by the Theater Arts for Children Foundation raises money for the renovation of the Hart High and Newhall Elementary School auditoriums. Proceeds will be split 50-50 between the two, with some going to a community cultural arts fund.

By that time the city should have adopted redevelopment for Old Town Newhall, and by all signs, the Hart and Newhall auditoriums could ultimately become major draws for the area.

Throw the Canyon Theatre Guild into the mix, and you've got a full-blown community theater district. Ironically enough, the Guild started out in the Hart auditorium 26 years ago before moving to St. Stephens Church and then to the Rafters above the old courthouse on Railroad Avenue, and finally to its current quarters up Sierra Highway. Now the Guild wants to return to Newhall, where it hopes to construct a permanent home in the form of a new theater and restaurant.

* * *

New digs or no, the Canyon Theatre Guild continues to offer first-rate performances in Saugus. Currently on stage is "Tribute," a fast-paced comedy that turns into a real tear-jerker when an estranged father and his adult son decide to get to know each other after years of mutual neglect. Michael Levine (you'll remember him from the 1995 production of "Fiddler on the Roof") is his usual brilliant self in the lead role opposite a talented George D. Cummings. "Tribute" isn't for kids, but every adult in town will love it. Catch it on Fridays or Saturdays this month at 8 p.m.

And yes, they've got kids' stuff too. I haven't seen "World of Beauty and the Beast," but you can't go wrong with a Guild production. Call 298-0058 for reservations.

Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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