Thursday, February 1, 2001
That thud you heard in mid-December was the sound of a really big monkey falling off Pac Rep''s back. On Dec. 12, Pacific Repertory Theater made its final mortgage payment on the Golden Bough Playhouse, capping a six-year fundraising effort to buy the historic building. In the last two years, Pac Rep leveraged a $50,000 challenge grant from AT&T Pebble Beach Charities to goad a collection of corporate and individual donors into pushing the troupe over the financial top.
The history of the Golden Bough Playhouse dates back to 1905, when the Carmel Club of Arts and Crafts built the first performance hall at the current location. Its saga includes two fires, five buildings and two locations.
The current building was erected in 1952 by Carmel entrepreneur/artist Ted Kuster and encompassed both the 300-seat Golden Bough Theater and the 99-seat Circle Theater. But business didn''t boom, and Kuster leased the Golden Bough to United Artists in 1953 to keep from going bust. UA took over the entire complex after Kuster''s death in 1961.
A small theater troupe, The Golden Bough Players'' Circle, leased the Circle Theater until 1972. After that, the theater fell into disrepair, unused except as a storage space. And, although it was in use, UA didn''t keep the Golden Bough in much better condition.
Pac Rep''s campaign to buy the Golden Bough began in 1993, when United Artists--which by that time had purchased the whole caboodle--announced its intention to sell the building and property for four residential lots. At the same time, Pacific Repertory Theater--then known as GroveMont--was in the middle of a spat with its Monterey landlord.
Pac Rep/GroveMont saw the stuff of dreams in UA''s proposed dumping of the Golden Bough and a bright opportunity to find a permanent home. By 1994, the troupe raised $600,000 (about half of the total cost of the building) as a down payment to UA. Pac Rep/GroveMont mounted its first homegrown Golden Bough productions in 1994 and opened its first full season in 1995.
Pac Rep will celebrate the monkey''s demise with a mortgage-burning on Feb. 17. The guests of honor will include a host of capital donors. According to the group''s press release, "some reserved seats to this event may be available to the general public." (Hey, you can never raise too much money.) If you''re interested, call 622-0100.
Reading in the 21st century has very little to do with fireplaces, rainy days, the smell of musty leather, and the stubborn stiffness of a brand-new book. The dogma of the day asks why would you drag yourself to a bookstore, find out the book you want is out of stock and give up $21.95 for a second-best when the electronic hearth at home hums and glows with the enticing offer of anything, anytime?
Pragmatism and economic efficiency are beginning to slowly erode the premier role of the retail bookseller in today''s worldwide marketplace, a trend that could provide myriad opportunities for self-publishers but a death sentence for mom-and-pop book outlets.
To address some of the impending issues, Local 7 of the National Writers Union presents local fiction writer Don Monkerud, an editor at Digital Publishing Solutions magazine, as the head-of-the-roundtable host of a discussion on "E-Publishing: Fact and Fiction," an exploration of the implications of the Digital Revolution for writers and how to function in the new playing field. Monkerud will address the nuts and bolts of e-commerce on Tuesday at 7pm in Monterey''s Walden Books.
--Alexis Niswonger Seccombe