Just over a year ago, a vibrant green lizard sign went up on Main Street. Mosaic Lizard Theater, Alhambra's only dedicated live theater, opened its doors and started staging plays. The city enabled the non-profit organization's move from a shared space with Arte Flamenco down the street with $108,000 in tenant improvement money. Since then, tickets have been sold to live shows from Oscar Wilde to original productions and youth classes are offered at the theater. But despite a well-received start, a shortfall of income, paired with a cutback in state funding, are hitting the fledging theater hard.
The challenges facing Lizard are typical of community theaters. Doug Clayton, Director of Programing and Operations at the L.A. Theater Alliance, explained that generally they operate on a budget that is 50 percent supported by ticket sales and the other half by donations and grants. For many this is not enough.
“A lot of theaters get built and a lot get closed in two years because of lack of support,” said Clayton.
In May of last year, Lizard submitted a proposal for a grant of $15,000 to help cover costs such as utilities and rent. Then last month it received bad news: the city could not offer them the funds. The now defunct Alhambra Redevelopment Agency is barred from entering new, or amending previous, financial agreements due to the shut down of agencies across the state.
As a result the "Lizards," as members of the theater group call themselves, have been making adjustments.
The theater is trying to increase its social media presence and limiting its scope. “We can't do the big stuff we want because there no money to do it,” said Jay Parker, Lizard Theater Founder and Managing Director. For example, Lizard's latest production "Hemingway: An American Original" is a relatively short performance, lasting for approximately an hour. But the theater plans on continuing its 2012 season as scheduled, with next show being "Oh, Rats," a one-act festival, consisting of multiple peices opens on March 2nd. Its youth improv classes, which run around $75 a session but also provide scholarships, will also continue.
“If we close down in a year because of money that was a year we kept kids off the streets,” said Parker.
Despite the challenges ahead, Parker remains optimistic that Lizard will survive and emphasizes that he is grateful for the support that has received from the community as well as the city.
“The city has been great, our neighbors, have been great," Parker said, speaking on behalf of all the 'Lizards.' "And we all appreciate it."