THE SCENE: 1997
Sonny Bono is mayor of Palm Springs. A gallon of gas is $1.22, “Change the World” is No. 1 with a bullet. Jack was “the king of the world” until Rose didn’t understand the concept of sharing. There was room for two on that driftwood, people!
And in Palm Springs, things were getting decidedly thespian when J.W. Layne, a 20-something guy from Kentucky, blew into town on holiday, holstering a master’s degree in fine arts, and an observation: Palm Springs had follies and film festivals, but no live theater. He and his artistic family lived and breathed theater, and they saw opportunity. Together, they established a 501(c) and Palm Canyon Theatre (PCT), the little not-for-profit that could, was born.
Finding a space wasn’t easy — the company expanded its search outside of Palm Springs until the city said, “Hang on, we’ve got an idea.” It involved a school gym. Layne and his family accepted the challenge, invested a whopping $750,000 and created a proper stage, a house with 215 seats, dressing rooms, and a rehearsal space. Se Layne, J.W.’s sister and a successful New York actor, joined J.W. to become co-artistic director. She’s the casting genius; he creates the backstage magic— sets, props, lights, and sound. Parents, Bill, and Sylvia, collaborated the company’s first season, and in September “The Desert Song” opened to a packed house.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PALM CANYON THEATRE
The Palm Canyon Theatre seats 215, has dressing rooms, and a rehearsal space.
Originally all equity, PCT had a two-year internship program for young actors to acquire equity cards. One of its alums, Steve Kazee, won a Tony award for his performance in Once. Occasionally you will see soap-opera favorites treading the boards.
No longer equity, PCT holds auditions monthly, with a huge summer casting call in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.
PHOTO BY PAUL HAYASHI
In the Heights begins in June 2017.
PCT is a community treasure with a crew of volunteers critical to its success. Among PCT initiatives is Kid’s Camp, weekdays when the theater is dark.
Last season, PCT nabbed 54 nominations from Desert Theatre League. This 20th season opens with a new musical director, Steven Smith. Tickets are $29.50 to $36.
Visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org for more information.
PHOTO BY NICK EDWARDS
Kids Day Camp takes over the theater weekdays during the summer.