Beginning in 1964 a group of actors gathered at the home of Susan French to read the works of William Shakespeare. The address was 40 Haldeman Road in Santa Monica Canyon. Thus the name… Theatre 40.
By 1965, the group led by Susan and John Houlton, vice-consul of the British Consulate General, decided to become more ambitious and produce the plays they had been reading. Theatre 40's first production was The Winter's Tale. In 1966, we produced Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice in MacArthur Park. This was Los Angeles' first Shakespeare in the park. Soon after this achievement, we began our association with the Beverly Hills Unified School District by producing our plays at the Horace Mann School auditorium. In 1969, we strengthened our relationship with the school district by creating a theatre appreciation course for their adult education program. When Actors' Equity Association started waiver theatre, we lost our theatre, as it was much too large for the waiver audience size, and for almost a year we were homeless. At this point, Beverly Hills High School offered a large storeroom to us if we could turn it into a theatre. This was in 1974.
The Reuben Cordova Theatre:
Starting with this empty storeroom, grants from the City of Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the Ahmanson Foundation, along with a lot of sweat and work from company members, the Reuben Cordova Memorial Theatre was created. It was designed by acclaimed Broadway designer Ming Cho Lee, and named for the late Reuben Cordova, Assistant Superintendent of Education for the Beverly Hills School District -- our Angel, Protector, and Inspiration for so many years.
Running Theatre 40:
A board comprised of company members and community trustees runs the theatre's business. The Board is responsible for raising funds, the visibility of Theatre 40 and for all our financial business. All the artistic business of the company is in the hands of the Artistic Committee, comprised of company members.
In the 30 odd years since those first readings, Theatre 40 has many achievements for which we can be proud. We are the recipient of the Margaret Harford Small Theatre Award given by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for continuing excellence in theatre, awarded in 1995. Originally we produced only Shakespeare and the Classics, but have broadened our horizons to include American classics, World and Los Angeles premieres and plays by our own members. Each season brings awards from many different groups such as the LA Drama Critics, LA Weekly, Backstage West, Drama-Logue and the Robby's for member driven projects as well as main stage shows -- a total of over one hundred awards!
Theatre 40 is currently comprised of approximately 150 professional actors, actresses and directors. Not all members are in active circulation due to work, out of town residence, etc. In order to become a member an actor must present an audition for the Artistic Committee. Active members pay dues of $20 per month, and support the company by ushering at productions, fulfilling a job on a committee, and helping with the Adult Education Theatre Appreciation Classes.
A) Main Stage Productions - We currently produce 4 major productions a year. The Artistic Committee chooses these productions, and the directors may or may not be members of the company. These plays are cast from the company. These productions run for 6 or 7 weeks, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00.
B) Rep Plays - Member-generated productions run along with the main stage productions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings at 8:00 pm. These are produced on a moderate budget and are totally cast by the member presenting the project. The entire cast must belong to Theatre 40. The director is the choice of the project presenter. Prospective Rep Plays are auditioned for the Artistic committee, usually twice a year.
C) Seminars - This is what the class is called that we teach Monday evenings for the Beverly Hills Adult School. The class consists of an introduction by the evening’s director, usually a company member, a play reading by the members of Theatre 40, and a discussion of the play with class members, actors and director, as it relates to the theme of the current session.
D) Newsletter - Every month we print a newsletter, which provides essential information such as casting dates and plays, seminar and meeting schedules. It also serves as an information exchange between members with working news, classified ads, etc. Also Changes in Addresses or Telephone Numbers. Please contact Barbara Trenn, Email BTwritact@aol.com.