PICTURED: Transforming the multi-purpose room at Simi Elementary into the new ARTSpace Black Box Theater. Photo courtesy of Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi

by Alicia Doyle

alicia@aliciadoyle.com

Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi (ARTS), which has produced live theater in Simi Valley since 1995, will present its first season at ARTSpace Black Box Theater, a new 96-seat venue located in the converted multi-purpose room at Simi Elementary School.

Starting Jan. 18, the 2020 season will begin with John Steinbeck’s ***Of Mice and Men, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Feb. 9.

ARTSpace was designed by Will Shupe and subsidized by ARTS in response to a call for an additional live theater space serving eastern Ventura County and the northwestern San Fernando Valley, explained Jan Glasband, ARTS artistic director. 

The new venue “is a theatrical home for every one of all ages and backgrounds,” said Glasband, of Simi Valley, adding that ARTS has traditionally utilized the stage at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, which they will continue to do. “We are excited to bring another performance venue to Simi Valley and hope the community will share the many benefits live theater has to offer.” 

Since the 1990s, ARTS has earned a reputation for excellence in live theater, and in 2001 received a commendation from the city of Simi Valley for its contribution to the community. Recognizing the importance of arts education, ARTS’ mission has always been to further develop and increase the impact of the arts on youth as well as adults looking to further their theatrical training and unique expression.

The ARTS mission statement is that every individual has the right to artistic expression and finding their own unique sense of “self” through the performing arts. ARTS’ goal is to help nurture and guide that journey which can only “serve to bridge that which threatens to divide us as human beings and instead, bring us together.”

Glasband noted that ARTS has been produced “much more” than live theater. For instance, members of the organization are also the creators and producers of the Ghost Tour in Strathearn Park, the Nottingham and Tumbleweed Festivals, ARTS Performance Academy and ARTS Cultural Enrichment Center, she said.

Glasband explained that although ARTS has been mounting its productions on stage at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, it exists as a separate entity under the non-profit umbrella of the SVCA.

“ARTS is a unique theater company that shares SVCA’s mission of raising cultural awareness through the arts and educational programs,” she said. “The new ARTSpace Black Box Theater will allow for the company to fully realize their joint mission of expanding arts and culture to a broader segment of the community.”

The new ARTSpace venue will be presenting a season of ARTS-produced, four-week runs of book plays — contemporary, original and traditional — as well as shorter runs of noteworthy productions that have been staged in other venues. The new venue will also present ARTS-sponsored free workshops and program presentations by Literature in Action, Spectrum Collaborative and Pride Youth Theatre Company. 

In addition to an upcoming Saturday morning Thoughtful Theatre for Children program and bi-lingual productions (Teatro Equis) for the Spanish-speaking population, there are also opportunities for outside theater companies to rent the facility for short-run productions, Glasband noted. 

“There is no other venue quite like this black box theater in Ventura County, where the community’s needs are prioritized in order to help raise cultural awareness and encourage inclusion,” she said. 

The ultimate goal of the new venue is to help build a more diverse arts infrastructure, “and address the needs of specific segments of our population,” Glasband added. “We hope that in creating a more inclusive world through the arts we might build bridges of understanding that help to unify rather than divide.”

Of Mice and Men onstage Jan. 18-Feb. 9 at ARTSpace Black Box Theater, 2956 School St., Simi Valley. For tickets and more information, visit www.actorsrepofsimi.org or www.simivalleyculturalassociation.org; email jgartdept@sbcglobal.net; or call 805-368-2103.