I was skeptical. I admit it. I’d heard about the Theatre Project in one form or another for years. I’d thought about volunteering, checking out the project closer, but hey, I was busy.
Earlier this year I decided to contact someone on the board of directors. I checked out the website at lompoctheatre.org. I read up, I did my research. Looking over old pictures of the Lompoc Theatre brought back memories and got me cautiously optimistic.
I’d been to the 90th birthday bash over a year before but got there late and missed my chance to get a tour. Darn it. At that point anyone taking a tour had to wear hard hats.
Then, one day last March I was invited into the theatre. I walked in, through the lobby, where the concession stand was wrapped in heavy plastic. No lights, so we had to use flashlights. Because of extensive roof leaks and a pigeon infestation throughout the building, there was debris and pigeon poop residue everywhere. Then I stepped into the cavernous theatre. No seats, no plaster on the ceiling due to the previously-mentioned problems. It didn’t smell great. The dust was so thick it looked like I was walking into the upside-down from the show “Stranger Things.”
It didn’t matter. I smiled widely, probably like an idiot — and have not looked back since.
In this year alone, the theatre has been electrified. OK, a lot of light bulbs were just burned out, but they are on and that’s the important thing. The plumbing is 85-percent fixed, with 100-percent done in a few weeks. All traces of pigeons are gone inside the building, the place has been repeatedly scrubbed and sanitized thanks to hard-working volunteers.
What I found out is that the board, a hard-working volunteer bunch, have been working diligently for years. I just couldn’t see it because there was a mountain of behind-the-scenes tasks to do — back taxes, getting rid of liens, negotiating with the city over ownership and debt issues, getting rid of asbestos, clearing hundreds of pounds of pigeon poop, taking down gargantuan piles of plaster, securing the building against break-ins, vandals and vagrants. It was not fun for them, but they did those tasks quietly and well.
From a 35,000-square-foot building filled with junk, dust, moldy carpets, pigeon droppings nine months ago, the building is now clean, inviting and ready for new life. We have been working hard in the retail spaces facing H Street, and the offices above. The retail spaces are nearly ready to rent, and there are four tenants ready to go. That will bring steady income to the project as we start our capital campaign for the big donors.
What has struck me most is how much the community wants this to happen. We have hosted multiple events and regular tours of the building to great success. It’s an honor and a pleasure to see a person’s face light up as they enter the cavernous theatre space, the thrill they get from walking on stage, or into the wooden, 1870s land office building, or even a tour of the basement under the stage. People are excited.
I’d like to say thank you to the community for all the continuing support. Every dollar raised goes directly to this project. With everyone’s help, this will happen. In fact, it already is happening. Thanks to you. Bravo Lompoc! Please visit us at lompoctheatre.org. This theatre will rise.