The following article on CLOTA's history was written by Mary Plauson for the program of "MY FAIR LADY"
CLOTA's Premier Production. "The goal - to raise $6,000. The idea that the Ridgecrest-China Lake area could support its own community theatre. It is true that the people of this area have always shown an interest in the theatre . . . But, would people be interested enough to contribute their money, time and talent to make as large an undertaking as a community theatre possible? In the fall of 1964, three men decided to pool their talents and form a private theatre group.
Jack Lawson, English instructor and head of the Drama Department at the local campus of Bakersfield College, Vernon Green, technical director of many plays, and Ken Bryson, a very able musical director, created the Desert Music Theatre. Designed primarily as a children's theatre, the group's first production. RIP VAN WINKLE, was well received. However, it soon became apparent that more support and capital were needed to continue such an enterprise.
While searching for a solution to this problem, the three had several discussions with Ed Romero, who has long been active in theatre locally, and the idea of a community theatre for both China Lake and Ridgecrest was born.
The response to such a proposal was immediate and favorable. Within a short time, a Board of Directors was formed, and at their first meeting on February 1, elected Dr. Richard Ashcom president, George Coulter, vice-president. Don Yackey, secretary, and Carolyn Lindberg, treasurer.
A constitution and by-laws were also approved, and the title of Community Light Opera and Theatre Association was given to the project. At this same meeting, Lawson, Green and Bryson gave the total assets of the Desert Music Theatre to the new venture.
By February 14, a subscription committee consisting of 80 members and with Dwight Holford as chairman was ready to start the sales campaign. At a meeting held the same day, Leroy Jackson, Kern County supervisor and Captain John l. Hardy, Commander of US-NOTS were on hand to give the project their official blessing. They also became patrons of the Theatre. The subscription drive, which ran from February 15 to April 1st, brought the association 90 patrons and 140 members, three of who are $100 life members. They are Dr Richard Ashcom, Dr. William McLean and actor Cesar Romero. A total of 433 subscriptions were sold in the drive, netting the theatre $4000 of the estimated $6000 needed to produce both plays of the first season.
The response to the advance ticket sale was so great that the association went ahead with plans to rent the old Masonic Lodge as a rehearsal hall. The number of people who came to audition for MY FAIR LADY . . . showed continued enthusiasm
Tonight you see before you the result of a community working together. The efforts of many people from both China Lake and Ridgecrest were needed to make this production possible. Your response has been gratifying, but your support will continue to be needed when we start our second season in September. The Community Theatre hopes in the future to broaden its productions, thus making the group a well rounded semi-professional theatre of which the
"Community Can Be Proud."
The CLOTA Hangar
If you hear someone referring To the CLOTA storage Building as "the Hangar," you can be pretty sure that person has been in the organization at least since the late '70's. For many years a ramshackle structure, always referred to as the Hangar, was the center of CLOTA's pre-production activities. Located near the corner of China Lake Blvd and Upjohn, where the El Rancho Motel is now, the building was just what it was called - an airplane hangar left over from Ridgecrest's old Davis Airport.
Rehearsal for the first few CLOTA productions were In the Masonic Lodge on lnyokern Road. But the Masons built a new lodge and decided to tear the old one down in about 1966. Luckily for us, the owner of the Davis Airport property was willing to let us use the Hangar for nominal rent until he could find a buyer at the price he was asking.
In many ways the ambiance of the Hangar would be familiar to today's production crews. The building was too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, and deficient in storage space all the time. In addition, though the Hangar leaked like a sieve, had a mysterious system of water pipes that burst on the slightest provocation, and was so drafty that sand dunes accumulated on the floor. The dark, dusty back room was used to build sets and the building was large and tall enough to rig and paint half a drop at a time.
The front room was just as dingy and tall as the "scene shop", but only big enough to almost replicate the floor area of Burroughs stage. In a corner was an old upright piano (the bane of local piano tuners) and lining the walls were what seemed to be every broken-down, shabby couch and chair in town. A small entry room (you couldn't really dignify it with the name "foyer") was most often used for costume fittings or for line rehearsals. When a play was in rehearsal, the building would be swarming with activity, with rehearsals, set building, dance rehearsals and costume fittings going on simultaneously. Some of our best, most elaborate sets were created there, then trucked over to the Lecture Center by the ever obliging Armstrong's and Mayflower Moving. We had a lot of fun in the old Hangar probably as much fun as we have in our building today. So if you hear somebody slip up and call our building
Take it as a Compliment!
By Liz Babcock
The CLOTA Building
The exuberant flowering of outstanding CLOTA productions in recent years is rooted, to a large extent, in its rehearsal, set construction and storage building at 1425 Inyo St.. Ribbon cutting for the 40 x 60' two story structure took place June 30, 1982, the culmination of a decade of planning, fund-raising and hard labor. The decision by foresighted CLOTA leaders in the early 1970'sto purchase the property (considered at that time to be virtually out of town") and undertake construction has paid off a thousand fold. Through the ensuing years, the successful struggle to develop building plans, secure the myriad requisite permits raise a staggering sum of money and perform the great bulk of installation chores testifies to our members' commitment to bring live theatre to our community. A plaque just inside the main entrance commemorates the individuals and organizations whose contributions of time. Money, skill and effort made the dream come true. "The Building" enabled CLOTA to emerge from its back-yard-and-garage phase and blossom into a brilliant cultural asset offering ever-more accomplished productions.
The creative spirit and dedicated labor that made it possible are already moving to follow-on building plans to brighten
By Bill Blanc
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