A scene from “Wallflower,” which was choreographed by Misa Kelly for SonneBlauma Danscz Theatre at the 2011 SB-ADaPT Festival in June and presented at Center Stage Theater.

News of an impending 21st birthday ordinarily conjures images of enjoying new freedoms earned by passage into adulthood through unrestrained celebration. But what does that mean when the 21st birthday is of a performance space, and not a person? That’s the question that the friends of Santa Barbara’s Center Stage Theater (CST) will be answering with a party and fundraiser this Saturday, August 20. And, in fact, one part of the answer will be quite familiar—for this special event, there will be adult beverages served inside Center Stage, something that’s not ordinarily allowed. But more importantly, on the heels of a wonderful 20th-anniversary retrospective last summer, CST will be celebrating its best season ever, with loads of great shows both already performed and upcoming, and a successful fundraising drive called the “20 for 20 Campaign” that’s well on its way to providing the space with the money to install new, more flexible seating and to offer companies an even broader variety of staging options.

Envisioned both as an alternative space where established performers could experiment freely and as a community resource for less experienced groups to put on their first shows, Center Stage has blossomed into a homegrown Santa Barbara phenomenon. In the current season alone, the theater has played host to SB-ADaPT, a groundbreaking new international festival of dance and performance theater; two fine productions by area company DIJO Productions, one of Talley’s Folly and the other of The Exonerated; some serious vaudeville from the outrageous Piezoelectric Circus of Jeff “Mr. Proboscis” Mills; and an excellent Los Angeles-bred production of Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And the season’s barely half over, with upcoming highlights including the current run of Proximity Theatre’s original drama Shandy Wilkes and the Santa Barbara debut of S.F. and L.A. solo-performance hotshot Ann Randolph, who’ll star in Loveland for two Thursday nights in a row, September 15 and 22.

Boardmember, veteran director, and longtime Center Stage supporter Peter Lackner said on behalf of the group that’s organizing the event that “the notion of ‘coming of age’ in this case signifies a new level of maturity for Center Stage itself, a healthy stability and clear mission which have already proven invaluable for so many local performing arts groups in a time of financial and cultural turmoil.” Lackner went on to add that “through the energetic and dedicated work of our executive director, Teri Ball, the growth of the Board of Directors with more members who specialize in performing arts and/or have experience in the realm of community service and fundraising, and with impressive improvements in the box office, administrative, and technical areas, Center Stage is definitely the best deal in town for both start-up companies and old-timer established groups.”


Center Stage Theater’s 21st Birthday Dance Party Benefit begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo). Call 963-0408 or visit centerstagetheater.org for tickets and information.


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