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Newhall Auditorium Future To Be Discussed

Arts groups to meet and ponder best use of historic theater.


While historic preservation seems to be a hot button among some gadflies at city council, there is a changing cast of characters who are working slowly but surely toward the restoration and rebirth of a piece of Newhall’s heritage – the auditorium at Newhall Elementary School.

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The historic space has seen a lot over the last 60-some years. Years of commencements, school plays and musical performances, classes and a stint as a warehouse are part of the building’s colorful history.


After the 1994 earthquake, local residents looking for performance space discovered the quiet structure with its austere, yet elegant exterior.


What they found was a hardwood stage, complete with wings and a bit of fly space for scenery; a vast open space where thousands of audiences had oohed and aahed at entertainment, a projection booth that William S. Hart used to show his movies to the community and the feeling that the walls longed to echo with the sounds of actors, singers, dancers and orators – a return to its simple purpose.


A group, Theater Arts for Children, was founded, raised money and completed repairs and renovation to the shell of the building, undoing vandalism and years of neglect while the district was forced to use the space for storage. They worked to make the building earthquake-safe and obtained an occupancy permit as a reward for their efforts.


They dreamed big, hoping that someday there might be hundreds of upholstered seats, a balcony, tech booth and air conditioning, all towards the goal of reviving arts education for the youth of the Santa Clarita Valley.


Unfortunately, life happens; grants dry up, fundraisers don’t bring in what organizers had hoped, group members move away or change careers. Dr. Mark Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School District, who has dubbed himself “just the landlord” of the auditorium, heard from TAC last summer that they could no longer help revive the theater. So he’s turned to the nonprofit community for help.


On Wednesday, Winger will be meeting with several arts groups – he invited all of those on the mailing list of the Arts Alliance – who have expressed an interest in the project. Some have many resources, some have few, but Winger is hoping that the groups will pull together and make the auditorium useful and open to all.


Winger anticipates the group will include representatives from the Canyon Theatre Guild, the SCV Film Festival, the Repertory East Playhouse, the SCV Concert Band and a youth theater workshop, Santa Clarita Playhouse, who will put their artistic minds together for the good of local youth in the performing arts.


“We’re hoping to have the arts community meet with us and craft a new lease with a nonprofit and hopefully go forward from there,” Winger said. “I’ve got this great building sitting here and it could be a jewel for downtown renovation.”