Solvang theater opens with new seating, walls after remodel

Solvang Theaterfest celebrates the renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

Solvang Theaterfest celebrates the renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

After being closed for more than 10 months, the newly renovated Solvang Theaterfest is officially reopening with a grand reopening concert featuring Mat Kearney on Saturday evening, following completion of the $5.3 million theater rebuilding project.

Construction for the project began in September 2021 and includes a completely replaced rear wall that is 8 feet taller than the original 6-foot stucco wall, new seating in “royal Copenhagen blue,” new stairs and Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible ramps, and relocated sound and light controls.

“The Solvang Festival Theater has been beautifully transformed into (Santa Barbara County’s) most attractive and up-to-date outdoor theater,” Executive Director Scott Coe said in a news release.

The new walls are equipped with hand-cut acoustic panels and aerodynamic trellising at the top to provide enhanced sound.

A new control booth has been moved to a more centralized location, with the new sound deck in the audience. Additionally, the old utility poles have been replaced with steel lighting columns.

For the backstage areas of the theater, the dressing rooms have been upgraded and the vomitory tunnels — which allow actors to exit and re-enter the stage in different locations — have been expanded and include new ceiling conduits for wiring, and a new dimmer room.

The theater originally opened in 1974 and was built in just 58 days. Since then, it has been hosting plays by PCPA, concerts in its Music in the Garden series, and other community events.

Just as the community rallied behind the original construction and opening of the theater in the 1970s, the rebuilding project was made possible through the donations and support of local residents, businesses and foundations.

The “Imagine! Building the Future” campaign started in 2019 to fund the project, garnering donations from more than 600 donors.

Coe, who first started with the Solvang Theaterfest in April 2020, said he spent much of his first year canceling events because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said he’s excited to finally reopen and unveil the revamped theater to the community.

“I’ve basically spent the first 2 1⁄2 years getting ready for this weekend, so I’m pretty excited about that whole situation,” Coe said. “That’s been crazy, but it’s been a lot of preparation to get to where we are.”

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Solvang Theaterfest board chairwoman Denise de Bellefeuille helps cut the ribbon on the newly remodeled theater on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, along with board members and capital campaign co-chairs Ann Foxworthy Lewellen and Chris Nielsen. Dave Bemis

Along with renovations to the theater, the garden lobby also has been redesigned.

While the changes to the garden are subtle, Coe said the redesign was made to add more space and open up the garden.

With new stairs and two entrances into the theater where there used to be only one, a terrace in the garden creates a “natural stage” where most of this year’s seven concerts in the Music in the Garden series will take place.

With the upgrades and added space, Coe said the garden can fit 200 to 250 people.

The grand reopening concert will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Solvang Festival Theater.

Additionally, when PCPA-Pacific Conservatory Theatre begins its season at the theater in August, it will be presenting “Into the Woods” on select dates from Aug. 11 through Sept. 4 and “Native Gardens” Sept. 9-17.

More information on the Solvang Theaterfest and other events can be found on the theater’s website, solvangtheaterfest.org.

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