A Trip Down Memory Lane
Scripps Ranch Theatre: The First 25 Years
by Sharon Hays
Part 1: The first six seasons

It began when B. J. Scott, a Scripps Ranch resident, had an idea. She had appeared in a production at Patio Playhouse in Escondido and got tired of the commute.At that time no community theaters existed between Escondido and downtown San Diego. In March 1978 B. J. advertised in area newspapers for interested people to meet, discuss, and organize a community theater in Scripps Ranch. They envisioned the theater as a source of entertainment for and by the local community. Teri Eriksen said she would direct the first play. Bylaws were written and charter officers were: B. J. Scott, president; Gretchen Timmermans, vice president; Luraine MacLeod, secretary; and Jerry Oen, treasurer. By June the group—now called Scripps Ranch Community Theatre—had its first production, Our Town, starring area residents. Arrangements were made for a one-time use of the Legler Benbough Theatre on the campus of then-USIU. Funding came, primarily, from memberships, ticket sales, and advertising in the program.Props, flats, costumes and set pieces were acquired and stored in people’s homes and garages and sometimes outside. “For some time props and flats were built and stored in our back yard,” said Jerry Oen. “We always hoped it wouldn’t rain.”During the first six seasons, SRCT used many venues; finding a permanent home was impossible, though several attempts were made. SRCT moved back and forth the first six years between USIU, Wagenheim School in Mira Mesa, the Scripps Ranch Swim and Racquet Club, and even the parking lot of the Vons Shopping Center for a melodrama under the stars. While at Wagenheim, play dates couldn’t be set until the school scheduled its functions, making it difficult to plan a season. During Seasons Five and Six, SRCT performed in four different locations, which presented challenges for developing audience loyalty. Sometimes venues changed within a single season!One of the joys of a new organization was creating all of the “firsts” and long-standing traditions. In 1978 SRCT threw its first end-of-season recognition banquet, which continues today. The production of Mousetrap in 1980 qualified SRCT for membership in Associated Community Theatres (ACT) and SRCT was first represented at the Aubrey Awards. In 1981 SRCT tried something new by scheduling two performances of Butterflies are Free over the July 4th weekend.Season Four brought the first children’s show, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Fifty-two kids auditioned and they were so talented that Director Jane Merrill, who had directed plays in New York and Germany, double cast many of the characters. During the final rehearsal, Producer Arnie Gass, who is still involved today, was hanging lights, while sharing the theater space with a dance class. All five performances of …Charlie Brown were sold out before the show opened. During the third show of this season, SRCT was told that it would need to find a new venue for the first show of the fifth season, which took SRCT back to the Scripps Ranch Swim and Racquet Club.Season Five’s opener brought another “first” in that The Lion in Winter was performed outdoors on a basketball court at the SR Swim and Racquet Club. A USIU student from the Middle East designed an elaborate set, for which his father provided funding. As noted in an ACTion review, a bunny nearly stole the show when it hopped on stage, was placed in a basket by an actor, and then hopped back out again. During Season Five the opening night, after-performance wine and cheese party became another tradition that continues today. SRCT also launched a series of children’s workshops, hoping it would become an annual event. Evening classes were held twice a week for children from ages 6-18 who paid $10 per person to learn about makeup, costumes, lighting, directing, and acting.In Season Six, SRCT’s reputation had spread so that most of the cast was from other communities. By the end of the sixth season, SRCT was using rehearsal space in the Mira Mesa Village, Heritage House Townhouse Assn. in Poway, House of Ice, and Logicon, Inc., moving into performance space on Fridays with sets designed so they could be erected and struck every weekend. Also in Season Six, SRCT launched its annual production of A Christmas Carol, directed by John Gender. Various stores in the Mira Mesa Mall were used as the venue; characters were dressed in period costumes. The season ended with the hope that children’s theater could be resumed.

In the I Remember Mama program in the spring of 1984, past-SRCT President Dan Randall said, “During the growth years there was a little known scene, something of a ritual, that had been played backstage on opening nights. With a handshake, somewhat in disbelief, the words were uttered ‘well, we did it again’.”

As the sixth Season came to a close, SRCT’s then-President Carol Gardyne said, “our history is short, but our plans are long.”

Next:  Part 2: 1984-1992

Founding Members:

  • Harold Hassin, M.D.
  • Thomas & B. J. Scott
  • Theresa Eriksen
  • Vince & Anna Lenoir
  • Jerry Oen and family
  • Robert J. Roesky, Jr.
  • Perry & Gretchen Timmerman
  • Mr. & Mrs. Richard Allum
  • Mr. & Mrs. John Bescher
  • Walt & Muriel Bossert
  • Don & Shirley Cheney
  • Mr. & Mrs. S. P. Dearing
  • Mary A. Edens
  • Mr. & Mrs. Lewis Gibbs
  • John & Karen Hedrick
  • John & Shirley King
  • The Ron MacLeods
  • Ron & Karen McElliott
  • Judy Nyquist
  • Lee & Doris Patton
  • Linda Priest
  • Mr. & Mrs. Hector Sanchez
  • Dave & Ellen Sheive & family
  • Steve & Debbie Tuttle
  • John & Hallie Williams
  • Andrea Jankovich
  • Bonita Porter
  • Annie D. Cabbage
  • Sheila M. Gosselin
  • Dawn M. Lawson
  • Steve Mountan
  • Ron Scott
  • Michael Shaw