A tradition of more than 90 years of community theater in Novato could come to a close if the city's hometown theater troupe wraps up a deal with a San Rafael venue.
The ’s lease for its Playhouse at is and it has been a struggle for the group to find space for public assembly within the city limits, according to Sandi Rubay, president of the board.
There are two potential locations that can accommodate the requirements of a minimum of 3,500 square feet of space, a 14-foot high ceiling and zoned for public assembly, Rubay said. But those locations are both in San Rafael.
So far, an assembly hall at the St. Vincent’s property in Marinwood is the most likely candidate. It has the adequate space that is needed to create dressing rooms for the actors, a backstage and a collapsible stage extension, she said.
“It will give us up to 500 seats,” said Rubay. “There are other community organizations there so there may be lots of opportunity for us to collaborate.”
It’s not a done deal yet. According to Rubay, there is another organization interested in the space and the theater company is being interviewed as a potential leaseholder. But Rubay thinks the theater group’s reputation, which began in 1919 in Novato, will help it seal the deal.
“We have longevity and there is familiarity with NTC,” said Rubay. “We run in the black — all of our shows — and thanks to our amazing donors we have the money in the bank to enhance the space.”
Rubay finished talks with the St. Vincent's representatives earlier Wednesday, and although it looks promising, it's not a done deal, she said.
Another location interested in having the theater company lease space is in the former Lucasfilm production facility on Kerner Boulevard in San Rafael. It’s now an independent production house, 32Ten Studios.
“We’ve gone there and sat in the plushy seats of their screening room,” Rubay said.
NTC has tried to stay in Novato but Rubay said she has done an extensive and frustrating search of space and nothing has turned up that would fit the playbill.
The former on Grant Avenue, the old , the at Hamilton, locations with the , the vacant building — none will work within the timeframe or budget of $1.30 per square foot.
Eight vacant industrial spaces in Bel Marin Keys were also pondered but Rubay said the city would need to grant a variance for public assembly and she was told by city staff that the budgets are so strapped that the city can’t even afford to fast track the paperwork on a variance.
Even the potential of the new downtown Novato Theater was explored, but Rubay said plans to put in a permanent film screen do not work for live theater.
“I have scraped the bottom, top and sides of the barrel,” she said.
In a status update by email, Rubay wrote that they are hoping to sign a five-year lease for the space at St. Vincent's by the end of the week.
“Unfortunately, the city of Novato is not NTC's champion in any way; city council may each individually love the theater, but from city management perspective, community theater has no place,” Rubay wrote.