Laguna Playhouse Celebrates Success, New Season

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With the success of the recent annual gala and the kickoff of Laguna Playhouse’s 99th season with Mamma Mia!” the achievements of the women leading the Playhouse continue to make a difference in the theater and community, Playhouse officials said in a recent statement.

The work of executive director Ellen Richard and artistic director Ann Wareham continues to a difference at the Laguna Playhouse. Photo courtesy of Laguna Playhouse.

Due to popular demand “Mamma Mia!” will be extended through Aug. 4.

Artistic director Anne E. Wareham, who has been with the Playhouse for nine years, executive director Ellen Richard, and general manager Denys Baker make up a very strong team of seasoned professionals with a lot of regional and resident theatre experience, nonprofit experience, and a wealth of relationships within the theatre community across the country, the statement said.

Richard and Wareham have mainly worked in nonprofit resident theaters. Wareham was for 27 years a producing partner and producing associate to Gordon Davidson at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles.

Richard joined Laguna Playhouse as executive director in 2016 after serving as executive director of the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) in San Francisco, Second Stage Theatre in New York City, and managing director at Roundabout Theatre Company. “We have a really great working relationship. We’re able to be open and honest with each other. We have a lot of the same taste in shows and similar sensibility, which makes it easier to make decisions,” Richard said. “In the end by being able to have open discussions you end up with a better product.”

Recently, Lauren Simon of Laguna’s Bare Bones Theatre was invited to stage her play readings at the Playhouse.“Executive leadership in nonprofit theatres is undergoing a transition, and while still a significant minority, there are more women like Ellen and Annie at the helm of American theatres now than ever before. My hope is that having more women in power will result in more stories about underrepresented people on stage. Bare Bones new play readings will offer Playhouse patrons an opportunity to see more of these stories in an intimate setting, and I’m grateful to Ellen, Annie and the Playhouse board for welcoming us into the fold,” Simon said. Wareham added, “Our job is to bring to the Playhouse work that resonates with this community and the community beyond Laguna Beach that supports us.”

“It is an absolute pleasure working with Ellen Richard, Ann Wareham, and the entire team at the Playhouse. After five years of partnering with them on our holiday Pantos, it was an easy decision where we wanted to premier our new musical To Sir, With Love,” said Kris Lythgoe, owner and producer of Lythgoe Family Panto.

Richard has received six Tony Awards as producer for “Cabaret”(1998), “A View from the Bridge”(1998), “Side Man”(1999), “Nine(2003), “Assassins” (2004) and “Glengarry Glen Ross”(2005).

The Playhouse has seen its budget grow from $5.5 to $7 million and its subscribers increase from 3,000 to 5,000 in the last three years. “I would like to see that growth keep happening. Everything we make gets invested back into the shows that we put on our stage, which has impacted the size and the scope of the shows that we’ve been able to make,” Richard said.

Richard and Wareham would also like to see continued growth in their education program and community outreach. Thanks to board member Lisa Hale, who generously decided to underwrite  two seasons, “We did bigger shows, we did a broader scope of shows, and more people have come…She gave us that seed capital to make it happen,” Richard said.

During her three-year tenure at the Playhouse, Richard said she’s enjoyed growing the subscription base, increasing the budget size, and doing an exterior renovation of the theater. The Playhouse’s focus includes reaching out to people with disabilities, military families, veterans, students in need and senior citizens.

For more information about Laguna Playhouse, its programs, or to learn more about the upcoming 99th season, visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

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