At the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, rehearsals of Shakespeare’s As You Like It are underway for its premiere on Feb. 8. But the CSP theater company, which has been delighting audiences and educating the next generation for almost four decades, is facing its most difficult role yet: survival.
CSP’s home at 330 Skyway Drive has been put up for sale by its owner, the Oxnard Union High School District, which is looking to raise funds to purchase a new location for its headquarters and adult school.
This was news to the members of CSP’s theater company, many of whom learned about the sale after reading an article in the Camarillo Acorn in November.
“We were not contacted by anyone in the school district,” says CSP General Manager R. Shane Bingham, who is also an actor, director and producer.
“No one told us the building was being sold, or considered to be sold in the future,” says Jolyn Johnson, who has been an active member of the company — on and off the stage — for the past 15 years. The general response from the CSP community has been one of “shock, sadness and a desire to help,” she adds. “No one in the Ventura County theater community wants to see this happen.”
Bingham agrees. “We’ve been residing in this location for 39 years, and to find out suddenly we have a matter of months to secure a way to stay was a surprise to everyone.”
CSP has two options: Raise enough funds to make the winning bid on the building or relocate. The CSP community is giving their all to finding a way to stay put.
“We have an ongoing fundraiser through our patrons page at www.skywayplayhouse.org/patrons, and [we] will be launching an additional fundraising program soon,” says Bingham. “We are also hosting new special events . . . Our hope is that we can work with a local government, private organization or an individual or group of benefactors that will allow us to purchase the space from the school district. Part of our original ‘handshake’ deal with the district was that we would take care of the upkeep and maintenance for the property, so we are well-equipped to be stewards of the building for the years (and hopefully decades) to come. We’ve also spoken with members of the Camarillo City Council as well as the city manager, and we are looking forward to more productive conversations in the very near future.”
Johnson and Bingham are also spreading the word on social media with #keepskywayflying, and asking people to contact the Camarillo City Council (firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-388-5307). Perhaps the biggest show of support would be to come see CSP’s next production of As You Like It, which is being set in the 1980s.
Johnson explains what’s at stake. “We are the only live theatre in the city of Camarillo, providing space for plays, musicals, youth programming and other art.”
“The Camarillo Skyway Playhouse has a long history of service to the Camarillo community,” adds Bingham. “Beyond the 39 years it has produced plays . . . it previously served as an entertainment venue for the servicemen and women who were stationed at the Oxnard Air Force Base … The current Camarillo Skyway Playhouse produces several shows a year for thousands of Camarillo and nearby patrons, and we house two youth groups — the Stage Door Players and Skyway Youth Theater.”
The Oxnard School District is expected to review bids soon. What if the CSP runs out of time?
“In the event we’re unable to raise the funds to purchase the building and it sells to an owner unwilling to let us remain, we’ve been starting conversations with nearby venues that may be able to house our group,” Bingham says. The courthouse in Old Town Camarillo is currently being reviewed as a possible home for the theater company.
“We have a whole season planned and we are determined to finish it somehow,” Johnson adds. After As You Like It comes The Crucible, which is slated for April.
The show must go on. And so it will, if the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse has anything to say about it.
Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo, 805-388-5716 or skywayplayhouse.org.