by Ashley Steed~
Company: Full Circle Theatrics DBA El Centro Theatre
Managing Partners Alice Ensor & Joe Koonce
Seat capacity: 99 (The Circle) & 45 (The Chaplin)
When founded: The theatre itself was founded in 1946. Full Circle Theatrics took over the management of the space in 2007.
Parking: Ample street parking and also parking availability in the Paramount Lot at the corner of Waring and Gower for $5 Monday through Friday.
Handicap accessible: Accessible for building but limited for restrooms.
Restrooms: There is a bathroom located in each theatre lobby and on the Circle side there is a second bathroom available for use by actors or audience. On the Chaplin side there is an actors bathroom and a small additional bathroom that can be used by actors or audience.
Amenities: Both theatres have central heating and air-conditioning and will be Wi-Fi accessible in Spring of 2011.
Lobby: Both theatres have their own lobby entrance and the Chaplin Theatre has a small grotto/patio off its side door as well.
Concessions: Concessions are usually served at all shows but may be at the discretion of the producers for rental productions. Only water is allowed in either theatre in the seating areas.
- One of the favorite restaurants for the El Centro crew is located right on the end of El Centro Avenue at Melrose… it’s Pueblo Viejo and Frank the owner is a great guy. Great margaritas and fabulous food – plus drinks after the show on weekends – it’s a casual atmosphere and a great pre or post show stop. (5722 Melrose Avenue)
- Osteria Mamma is now open on Melrose just two blocks East of Vine… everything is good there! (5732 Melrose Avenue)
- “Lou on Vine” is also walking distance from the theatre and offers an amazing wine bar serving 30 different wines by the glass, along with tempting daily menus from the in-house chef. (724 Vine Street)
- Larchmont Grill is a lovely California Cuisine restaurant also on Melrose, and Larchmont Blvd offers an array of choices in restaurants and is a lovely 10-minute walk from the theatre. (5750 Melrose Avenue)
- For those in a hurry Astro Burger has great burgers and an awesome Vegetarian menu and is two blocks away at the corner of Gower and Melrose. (5601 Melrose Avenue)
What’s on: The theatre rents to outside productions and Full Circle has presented two co-productions to date: The Glory of Living by Rebecca Gilman in association with Athena Theatre Company, and The Girl Who Would be King by Jan O’Connor in association with Absolute Theatre.
El Centro has a rich and extensive history and should be considered an LA theatrical treasure. It began as The Circle, a converted corner grocery store at Waring and El Centro Avenue by a group of UCLA students in 1947. Once a silent picture house and then a mechanic’s garage, the New Theatre (now the Chaplin Stage) opened a year after the Circle. Since their founding both the Circle and the Chaplin have housed world premieres and cutting-edge theatre. LATR asked managing partner Alice Ensor a few questions about the vast history and where Full Circle Theatrics hopes to take the company.
LATR: In your own words what is the company’s mission?
Alice Ensor: Our mission theatrically is to breed an environment where people who share a love of theatre come together – a place where it is expressed by artists, and experienced by audience.
LATR: Where did the name come from?
AE: We renamed the theatre The El Centro Theatre in 2007 because of our location, and in homage to its founders – Full Circle Theatrics was chosen based on the original players group which was called The Circle Players. Our love for the building and its history made us feel that it we had come “full circle” into becoming its new caretakers – our job to maintain its vibrancy and insure its legacy for the future.
LATR: When did the company start?
AE: The theatre itself was converted from a grocery store in 1946, and though the names and companies in residence have changed many times over the years, it has remained a theatre since its opening, and it remains one of the oldest intimate theatre spaces in all of Hollywood. Our [Ensor and Koonce] association with the theatre began in 2000 when our theatre company “The Theatre District” arrived for a coproduction and ended up taking up residence in the space. In 2007 our Artistic Director Macario Lescot decided to take a break from the day-to-day operations of running a theatre and Joe Koonce and I formed Full Circle Theatrics and took over the management of the space.
LATR: How/Why did it start?
AE: As previously mentioned, our Artistic director decided it was time to take a break, but Joe and I had invested the previous 7 years in loving and caring for the building so we decided it was worth the risk to take it on ourselves.
LATR: How has the company evolved?
AE: We spent the first year making sure that we could manage things, and renting both spaces. In year two, we decided it was time to produce, and ventured forward as a co-production with Athena Theatre. Then last summer we co-produced our first original comedy with Absolute Theatre and in 2011 we hope to produce our first solo productions. At present we work both by auditioning and using actors that we have gotten to know over the past decade. In the future we hope to have a like-minded group of artists from which new ideas can grow. Our “company” will evolve as we do – we like working with people who feel the way we do about theatre – you have to love it!
LATR: Where do you envision the company five, ten, 20 years down the road?
AE: In all the years ahead we hope simply to continue to build an audience for theatre, and to be a vibrant part of the Los Angeles Theatre community.
LATR: What makes this company special?
AE: The thing that makes this Company and Theatre special is the pure love and respect with which everything is approached… the theatre is a sanctuary – and we know how blessed we are to be able to spend time in it!
LATR: What awards/recognitions has the theatre/company received?
AE: The Theatre District garnered many awards over the last 20 years and both Joe and I were a part of it for over a decade. Full Circle is new, and though we don’t have numerous awards under our belt yet, we know that we have set a high bar for ourselves and that our audiences have been moved by our productions. Case in point, The Girl Who Would be King was named “Best Play or Musical in a Small Venue” on Jeff Favre’s Best of 2010 year end list.
LATR: What is the company’s target/niche audience?
AE: Don’t know if we have a target audience other than folks who love good theatre…theatre that connects human beings on a visceral level.
LATR: What is the most important thing that theatregoers should know about the company?
AE: If you come to a Full Circle Theatrics production, expect to feel – and expect to question those feelings. Our goal is not to give you the answers, but instead to raise the questions.
LATR: When the company is not in production, what does it do?
AE: Even if we’re not producing there are rentals always happening and bathrooms always needing cleaning!
LATR: Is it a membership company? If so, is it dues paying? If the theater is not a theatre company are there resident companies? Or companies that use your venue a lot? etc.
AE: We are not a dues company. Many groups have used our theatre spaces including West Coast Ensemble, Black Dahlia, Red Dog Squadron, Buzzworks and many others.
LATR: Are there any education or community programs?
AE: The Theatre District was involved with Hollygrove Orphanage in the past and worked with them to provide space for the kids’ productions. We are hoping to develop our own relationships with educational programs and get kids back on our stages soon!
LATR: Anything you’d like to add?
AE: We appreciate the interest in our theatre, and the community of theatres in Los Angeles. Small theatres need exposure, and are at the forefront of what makes Los Angeles theatre unique. We are thrilled to be adding to the vibrant scene that is the arts in Los Angeles.
We also want to make sure you know that the theatre’s rich history is being archived by Joe and you can read all about it on our site.