Speaker’s Corner


The Beach Isn’t Our Only Valuable Asset

By: Joe Hanauer

Joe Hanauer
Joe Hanauer

Just over a year ago, I was elected chair of The Laguna Playhouse, and at that time, I shared my vision for the Playhouse as being not only a place for high-quality professional theatre, but also a center for all kinds of performing arts and cultural events in Laguna Beach.  I’m pleased to say this vision aligned well with that of our dedicated Laguna Playhouse board and management team, which had been contemplating just such a direction.

Today, I’m very proud this vision has become a reality. Not only is the Playhouse team continuing to work hard to weather the impact of the long and deep economic downturn, but we are building our reputation as the go-to destination for Laguna Beach residents as well as tourists who want to see and hear great performances right in our own backyard. Let me give you some examples.

In May, Playhouse audiences raved about pianist Mona Golabek, who told the moving story of her mother surviving the Holocaust and teaching her daughters to become accomplished concert pianists. In June, we turned to comedy and the very funny Maripat Donovan in the crowd-pleasing “Sister Rolls the Dice.” This summer, we brought renowned Broadway stars Davis Gaines (“Phantom of the Opera”) and Vicki Lewis (television and Broadway) to perform in the musical “I Do! I Do!” We end the summer with a Beatles tribute band, the Laguna Dance Festival, followed by two weeks of Hershey Felder’s unique concert-style drama about Franz Liszt. Plus, the Playhouse has partnered with Laguna Beach Live!, the Laguna Beach Music Festival as well as  the Laguna Beach Community Band to bring more music into our lives on the Playhouse stage.

You can easily see from these examples that the Laguna Playhouse is a valuable asset to the community as a place to see many types of performing arts in many styles. As we like to say, there’s always a reason to fall in love with your Laguna Playhouse!

Now that I’ve shared the good news, I need to take off my Playhouse hat for a minute and put on my hat as a Laguna Beach resident, and business and property owner. Anyone who has owned property knows that maintaining one’s investment costs money. With a house, you have to water the yard, clean the floors, repair broken appliances, and, here by the ocean, paint frequently. The same is true on a larger scale when you own rental property, an office building, a hotel or a shopping center.

So, if you want Laguna Beach to continue its 93-year tradition of having a cultural treasure in your back yard, you have to spend some money to sustain it. You may be surprised to learn, fewer than 20 percent of Laguna Playhouse supporters live in Laguna Beach. Of the nearly 100,000 seats filled annually at the Playhouse, most people come from outside the area.  That’s unacceptable. This wonderful Moulton theatre, this great artistic endeavor is your Laguna Playhouse. It’s here for your enjoyment, and its team headed by Executive Director Karen Wood and Artistic Director Ann Wareham work  tirelessly to deliver you a wide variety of high-quality entertainment all year long.

Like the beach, the downtown, and the many arts institutions in town, The Laguna Playhouse is yours to enjoy year-round, when the tourists leave and out-of-towners drive east. As Laguna Beach residents, helping to support the Playhouse is as important as paving our streets and paying for trash collection and maintaining our beaches. How can you do that?

Buy a ticket. Make the Playhouse your go-to destination by coming to see a show now and then. There’s always something new on stage at the Playhouse.  It’s close to home, you’re always close to the stage, tickets are a bargain, and you’ll have a wonderful evening out.

Become a subscriber. If you’re like me, you want to experience a wide variety of live entertainment. Some shows are my cup of tea; my wife, Jane, likes others. Sometimes we agree. But when we subscribe, we see six shows each year, which makes for a nice variety that I like to think adds to our shared cultural experience.

Donate. Consider reaching deeper to support the arts in Laguna Beach with a tax-deductible contribution to the Playhouse. Not everyone can do that, but if you can, even small donations matter and are critical to the ongoing success of the Playhouse.  Your donations will aid us in continuing our quest for artistic excellence and diversity as well as providing a long-needed freshening of our cherished Moulton Theatre.

No matter how you participate, please join me in becoming part of a longstanding tradition of maintaining Laguna Beach as a thriving arts community for everyone to enjoy.


Joe Hanauer chairs the Laguna Playhouse board, oversaw the renovation of  The Old Pottery Place on Coast Highway and 580 Broadway and serves on the board of Laguna Beach Live! and Mission Hospital Foundation.

Share this:
View Our User Comment Policy


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here