‘Hidden jewel’ Playhouse opens 50th season

‘Hidden jewel’ Playhouse opens 50th season
The all-volunteer staff of Escondido’s Patio Playhouse Theatre with District 3 Supervisor Dave Roberts celebrates the opening of the Playhouse’s 50th season with a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 17. Photo by Tony Cagala

ESCONDIDO — Not long ago, a pair of teenaged brother actors summed up the 50-year history of the Patio Playhouse Theatre in a matter of two minutes and 12 seconds.

Brothers Izaiah Rhinehart and Wyatt Rhinehart, both actors in the Patio Playhouse Theatre troupe, spoke in front of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors seeking community grants to help the theater gain another source of funding.

Working off of a script they wrote themselves, those 50 years were told through what the brothers described as “tight-knit” snippets and banter.

“We figured out a way to talk about 50 years in that sense,” Izaiah said when the Playhouse held a celebration and ribbon cutting on the theater’s 50 year anniversary on June 17.

“We mentioned that Patio is all volunteer based and nobody gets paid and that it’s all been about bringing the community together for 50 years,” said Wyatt.

“It’s just a great social outlet, it’s a great theater,” he added. “It’s a good way to be a part of theater without having to get charged for it.”

Despite the brothers going over their allotted two-minute time limit during their presentation to the Board of Supervisors, District 3 Supervisor Dave Roberts commended the two thespians during the ribbon cutting for doing such a “phenomenal job.”

The Playhouse ended up receiving two grants: a Community Enhancement Grant of $1,500 and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program Grant for $6,500.

Roberts said he thinks it’ll be the first time the Playhouse will receive a Community Enhancement Grant.

Roberts, a Solana Beach resident and regular attendee of the North Coast Repertory Theatre, admitted that he didn’t know a lot about the Patio Playhouse.

It’s a refrain all too familiar with Brenda Townsend, the Playhouse’s youth theater director.

But there are probably a lot of reasons for it, Townsend explained, including the theater’s almost-hidden location on Grand Avenue.

But as Townsend sees it, the Playhouse is more than just community theater.

“I think it can fill many needs in people’s lives, for kids, for adults, and they need something,” said Townsend. “They need a job, they need friends, they just moved here (and) they need to meet people.”

The theater also doesn’t charge performers to audition for shows, which might make it one of, if not the only theater in the county that does that.

Yet, the cast and crews do take themselves seriously, Townsend said, when it comes to their craft and the theater serving as a place of mentorship.

“It’s somewhat one of our jewels of the city,” said Escondido City Councilman Ed Gallo. “They kind of fly under the radar screen. They’re not a flashy group.”

He became aware of the theater group back in the late ‘70s when they used to perform in a 300-seat theater at the former site of the Vineyard Shopping Center.

Their 80-seat black box theater is now at 201 E. Grand Ave.

However, with the theater being self-sufficient when it comes to finding and making funds to keep going, (30 percent of funds come through ticket sales and the rest is through donations, Townsend explained) Gallo said he’d like to see a couple of things happen. The first — to get some “angels” out there and build them a new facility, and the other — to revamp the Kit Carson Park amphitheater.

When they perform at the amphitheater, Townsend said she always hears people say, “This is just how Moonlight (Theater in Vista) started.

“But I don’t see that kind of thing in our future,” said Townsend. “I’m not sure we want that much growth because we do have so many things going on right now. We don’t really aspire to be Moonlight or aspire to be anything. I think we’re great how we are. Obviously, we need money to continue what we’re doing.”

The Patio Playhouse Theatre opened its 50th season with Green Day’s “American Idiot,” on June 24 at the Kit Carson Amphitheatre. Tickets and information are available online at patioplayhouse.com.

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