The local Argonaut area is home to a handful of small theaters that work year-round to produce entertainment for the community at large. Offering plays, musicals, classics, childrenís productions, one-man shows and workshops, the area is booming with independent theaters that seek to inspire and entertain.

And theyíre an affordable way to spend a Friday or Saturday evening or a Sunday afternoon, with ticket prices averaging from $10 to $25.

Many of these theaters and playhouses also enrich our community by offering classes and childrenís programs beyond their main stage productions.

Some local theaters also offer volunteer opportunities, memberships and season tickets, and some hold open auditions for anyone who decides to make the leap from the audience to the stage.

If anything, the rich history of these theaters, and often the buildings themselves, is enough to warrant recognition.

Over the last half-century, many of these theaters have grown from just a few dedicated members to well-established organizations. The Westside has developed a rich culture of independent, community and volunteer theaters which continue to bring art and entertainment to West Los Angeles, and many of them are right here in Santa Monica, Venice and Westchester.

Here are descriptions of eight local theaters and what they offer:

Established in 1950 the Kentwood Players are housed in the 112-seat Westchester Playhouse near Los Angeles International Airport.

Entirely volunteer-run, the Kentwood Players presents six full-length productions and two childrenís productions each season.

The group performs musicals, comedies and dramas, and some recent favorites have included Steve Allenís The Wake and Charles Dickensí Nicholas Nickleby.

Kentwood PlayersÝis proud of its longstanding history providing entertainment by and for the community for over 57 years.

ìWeíve got people from all walks of life ó everybodyís welcome,î says Shari Barrett, Kentwoodís publicity director.

The theater group started with a single play at Kentwood Elementary School in 1949. Today Kentwood Players has 195 members, and it is estimated that Kentwood has produced over 375 different works.

As Kentwood approaches its 60th anniversary, its members are certain that Kentwood will continue to delight audiences at the Westchester Playhouse for another six decades.

ìWe own our building, we own our props, we own our costumes,î said Barrett, commenting on the stability of the theater. ìI realize how special it is to own our facility.î

Auditions for the next production are held the day after the current production opens, and are open to the public.

Currently playing at the Westchester Playhouse is the Neil Simon comedy Biloxi Blues, directed by Larry Jones. Tickets are $16, with a $2 discount for seniors, students and servicemen.

Biloxi Blues plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 14th.

Reservations, (310) 645-5156.

The Westchester Playhouse is at 8301 Hindry Ave. in Westchester.ÝInformation, www.kentwood players. org

Founded as the Santa Monica Theatre Guild in 1946, Santa Monicaís Morgan-Wixson Theatre is celebrating 61 years of success.

The first official home of what is still Santa Monicaís only all-volunteer community theater was at Fifth Street and Ocean Park Boulevard. In 1962, however, the building then known as the Morgan Theatre burned to the ground, forcing the Santa Monica Theatre Guild to take up residence in its current location on Pico Boulevard.

Based out of a 200-seat venue, the Morgan-Wixson is a nonprofit organization which relies on member fees, donations and ticket sales to ensure that its participants never have to pay for the opportunity to produce theater.

The Morgan-Wixson produces a full range of comedies, musicals and childrenís productions. No cast is too large or individual too young.

The theater is home to the Youth Education/Entertainment Series, known as the Y.E.S. Program, for children ages seven to 17.

ìWe have an excellent childrenís program (Y.E.S) that affords a professional theatrical experience for young actors at no cost,î explains Anne Gesling, who has spent 21 years working with the Morgan-Wixson Theatre.

Auditions for both adult and youth productions are open to the public.

The current production is the musical Pippin, directed by Anne Gesling. Pippin is based on a book by Roger O. Hirson, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Pippin plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 14th.

Tickets are $23 for general admission and $18 for students and seniors. The box office phone is (310) 828-7519.

The Morgan-Wixson Theatre is at 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica.

The Ruskin Group Theatre Company, which resides alongside Santa Monica Airport, is no stranger to well-known actors such as Dillon McDermott, Anthony Hopkins and Ed Asner.

Associated with the Ruskin School of Acting, the theater strives to consistently provide its audience with ìworld-class work,î says Mike Myers, the Ruskin Group Theatre Company managing director.

The theater is known for producing new plays, one-man shows and ìcafÈ plays,î in addition to a main stage show. CafÈ plays, performed on the third Sunday of every month, are one-act plays that are completely written, directed and performed in the space of just ten and a half hours.

CafÈ play showtimes are 7:30 and 9 p.m. and tickets are $10.

The lobby of the Ruskin Group Theatre might look more like an art gallery than a theater entrance, and that is just what the theater intended.

ìAudiences can expect to be treated really warmly,î says Myers.

More than a warm welcome, the theater maintains a, ìpay what you can attitude,î towards those who may not always have the ability to pay in full for tickets. Ideally, explains Myers, this approach gives everyone in the community an opportunity to participate.

ìWe really want to share the experience with the audience,î he says.

The current main stage production is Strange Snow, written by Stephen Metcalfe and directed by John Ruskin. Strange Snow plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for students and seniors.

Tickets and information, (310) 397-3244, www.ruskingroupthe atre.com

The Ruskin Group Theatre is at 3000 Airport Ave in Santa Monica.

The aptly named Powerhouse Theatreís building dates to 1910, when it was the home of a Southern California Edison Electrical Plant.

Just off of Main Street in the Ocean Park area of Santa Monica, this 75-seat theater was abandoned due to damage after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Beginning in 1995, however, the Powerhouse Theatre Company took on the task of remodeling and reviving the small theater.

A nonprofit organization, the Powerhouse Theatre Company plays host to a variety of productions, community events and artists.

The theater strives to be a place where artists can experiment with the genre through the main stage production, family theater, solo performances and a variety of classes.

The first of two upcoming shows at The Powerhouse is Wounded, written and directed by Tom Burmester and performed by the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble. Wounded opens Friday, April 13th, and plays at 8 p.m. on select Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays.

On Friday, June 8th, the Powerhouse Theatre will open The Boomerang Kid, an audience-directed comedy. The Boomerang Kid, was created and written by Chris Econn and directed by Ryan Dixon. The Boomerang Kid is scheduled to play at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets for both productions are $25 for general admission, $15 for military and students with ID.

Information, (800) 633-6246 (800-OFF-MAIN) or www.power housetheatre.com

The Powerhouse Theatre is at 3116 Second St. in Santa Monica.

The Electric Lodge Theatre in Venice was developed by Dr. Joel Shapiro in order to involve the local Venice community in a variety of artistic mediums.

At the intersection of Electric and California Avenues, Shapiro has developed an environmentally-friendly solar-powered lodge.

The lodge has been host to a variety of productions, artists, musicians and theater ensembles.

The Electric Lodge also offers weekend and weekday classes in areas such as yoga, tango, and tae kwon do, as well as acting workshops.

Opening Saturday, May 19th, at the Electric Lodge is Headless, a drama performed by Ensemble Studio TheatreñLA. Headless, was written by Lea Floden and directed by Dan Bonnell, and will run Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $20 to $25 and can be purchased by calling (213) 368-9552.

The Electric Lodge is located at 1416 Electric Ave. in Venice and can be reached directly at (310) 306-1854. Information, www.electriclodge.org

The Miles Memorial Playhouse has been made available to nonprofit theater groups, thanks to funding by the City of Santa Monica as well as a gift from the family of former City Councilman J. Euclid Miles.

Located on Lincoln Boulevard, the playhouse was re-built in 1994 to re-instate the theater, which is dedicated to giving community members a place to perform.

The 140-seat theater brings more than 200 performances a year to the local community.

During its 70-year history, a variety of theater companies have adopted its stage as their own, including, recently, the Ensemble Studio TheatreñLA and Shakespeare Santa Monica.

The current production at the Miles Memorial Playhouse is David Mametís Squirrels, produced by the Blue House Theatre Company. Squirrels, directed by Travis Hammer, runs through Sunday, April 29th and plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

General information, (866) 219-4944 or www.milesplay house.org

The Miles Memorial Playhouse is at 1130 Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica.

The Pacific Resident Theatre prides itself on the development of new works as well as the classics. Audiences can expect to see productions from playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder and William Shakespeare.

Located on Venice Boulevard, the theater puts on four shows per season, including comedy, drama and musical performances. The Pacific Resident Theatre aims to provide ìquality and thought-provoking entertainment,î says Marilyn Fox, artistic director.

ìThey should be prepared to expect the unexpected,î says Fox of the audience.

The Pacific Resident Theatre has received the Margaret Harford Award for Continuous Achievement in the Small Theatre Arena and the Polly Warfield Award for Most Successful Season, among others.

The Pacific Resident Theatre was established in 1985 and currently has over 150 members. The current production of Arthur Schnitzlerís Anatol is directed by Dan Bonnell. Anatol, plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Sunday, May 27th.

Tickets are $20 to $25 and can be purchased by at (310) 822-8392. The Pacific Resident Theatre is at 703 Venice Blvd. in Venice.

Information, www.pacificresi denttheatre.com

The Santa Monica Playhouse is a nonprofit educational theater celebrating its 46th year in existence.

Having begun its run in 1960, The Santa Monica Playhouse today produces musicals, family theater, drama and comedies. In addition, the playhouse hosts guest productions and special events.

It is also home to theater workshops for children and adults, and even helps to plan theatrical birthday parties as a part of the family theater experience.

Currently playing evening shows at the Santa Monica Playhouse are Cinderella, a family musical and Audition! The Musical.

Cinderella, written & directed by Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie, plays select Fridays at 6 p.m. through May 12th.

Tickets are $12.50 for adults and $10.50 for children 12 and under.

Audition! is based on a book by Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie, with words & music by Rudie and Matt Wrather. It is directed by DeCarlo.

Audition! plays Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 6 p.m. and select Wednesdays through June 10th.

Tickets are $25.50 for regular admission, discounts for students, seniors, teachers, military and large groups.

Reservations and information, (310) 394-9779 ext. 1 or www.santamonicaplayhouse.com

The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street in Santa Monica.

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