But “Goodbye” might just turn out to be “See you later.”
Amid the impromptu reprise of past performances, Jan Melloni of the Brentwood Arts Society made an announcement that surprised and pleased virtually everyone in the room: preliminary plans were underway to save the building from destruction once again, move it to the site of the future Agricultural Heritage Park on Sellers Avenue, and use it for the home of a new community theater group.
“It’s going to take about a million dollars to buy the theater, number all the pieces, take it apart and put it back together,” Melloni told the crowd. “We’re looking to the community for a large part of it because we can’t do it alone.”
Things will have to move quickly if it’s to happen. The school needs the building gone by July 1, Melloni said this week, and a lot of work needs to be done between then and now.
“We’re putting together a meeting of people who might like to help to make sure the community is on board with this,” Melloni said. Based on feedback she’s gotten so far, she said, it might just work out.
Nancy Torres, the artistic director of the former Brentwood Community Theater group that staged many a performance there over two decades, said she’d like to attend the meeting, but if the building is to be saved, she’d like to see some improvements. The lack of an orchestra pit, the acoustics and the sound system are all problems that need to be addressed, she said, and reconfiguring the interior to accommodate theater in the round or dinner theater would make it more functional.
Torres was among those in attendance on Dec. 19, telling stories about the installation and frequent painting of the stage, the strict prohibition against food, gum and putting feet on chairs. “I can tell all sorts of stories; my heart and soul is there,” she said. “It was a place where special things happened during a special time, but it’s important to remember that the memories are about the people and what they did there, not the building.”
One big difference between the time the theater was built and now is that, back then, there was no other venue for the performing arts in Brentwood. With Edna Hill’s new theater, plus those at Heritage and Liberty high schools, the need for a building has now been supplanted by the need for a theater group.
There might already be a volunteer for that, though. Bart Schneider, host of the Dec. 19 event and the man who runs Edna Hill’s theater program, volunteered to head up a new community theater group, and has begun looking for support. For now, though, Schneider has busied himself with clearing out the sets, costumes and other items being moved to the new theater, and marveling at how many people brought their memories back to campus for the night.
“We were really, really pleased at the turnout,” he said. “To have the students there, as well as all the people that got it going, was really great.”
Attendees included Torres and Barbara Main of the BCT, former Principal Jack Englund, as well as Bill Leighton, Emil Geddes and others who made the building’s lengthy tenure possible. There was also Mac McLendon, the man who numbered the building’s pieces prior to its trip to Brentwood, and upon whom all eyes fell when Melloni made her announcement. It seemed clear from his reaction, however, that if it happens again, someone else will need to do it.