Lobero Theatre - Santa Barbara, California
Table of Contents

The Lobero Theatre, founded by José Lobero, is a historic building in Santa Barbara, California. It is at the corner of Anacapa and Canon Perdido Streets, less than a block away from the historic Presidio of Santa Barbara. Built in 1873 as an opera house, the theater was rebuilt to Spanish Colonial Revival style designs by architects George Washington Smith and Lutah Maria Riggs for the Community Arts Music Association in the early 1920s, and opened in August 1924, during a period in which civic groups in Santa Barbara were beginning to unify the town's architectural look around a Spanish Colonial style. Today the theatre continues to host arts and cultural events on 250 or more days per year. Because of its live acoustics and relatively small size it is particularly suited to chamber music. The Music Academy of the West holds many of its summer concerts in the Lobero."

In an original 1929 playbill for the Lobero a description of the history of theatre in Santa Barbara and of the Lobero was given:

"Nine years ago there was born in Santa Barbara an ideal of drama - drama of, by and for the community. And four and one-half years ago there was born an impressive symbol of that ideal; the Lobero Theatre. It is not only one of the leading "little" playhouses of the country nor only a proud, architectural landmark; it signifies a very tangible response by the city to spontaneous, disinterested effort. It is Santa Barbara's recognition of the need for a public utility in the realm of thought and feeling, of expression and appreciation.

In August, 1920, the Community Arts Association came into being through a group of people whose interest was the drama. Under the technical guidance of a professional director, their aim was to offer the community dramatic productions of genuine merit as well as of entertainment value, to give members of the community the chance to exercise their talent for acting, and to put facilities for dramatic instruction at the disposal of anyone who was interested in this method of expression.

The heartiness of the community response to these three elements in the group's ambition led to vigorous and healthy growth. The programs of one-act plays gave way to full-length productions in the old Potter Theatre; the energies of the organization, buoyed up by the confidence which recognition inspires, undertook similar endeavor in the field of music. The School of the Arts and the Plans and Planting Committee both took their places in the Community Arts organization a short time afterward, thus completing a quadruple alliance, each ally specializing in a separate field but the four united in the conviction that the things of beauty, of aesthetic inspiration, are by no mean irrelevant to American community life.

It was the press of necessity which, in 1924, brought the Drama Brand of the Community Arts Assocation to put the merit of its ideals to a test more sever than any previous. The Branch had outgrown the facilities of the Potter Theatre; it had also attained a dignity and prestige which required a playhouse of its own. The question which arose was this: To how great a degree did the community value the future services of the Drama Branch? The organization had sprung from the community with the ideal of serving the community. Therefore it was entirely fitting that this same community should be appealed to make the the acquisition of a theatre possible. A refusal of the appeal would be an automatic indication that there was no further place fo the Drama Branch in the common structure. If the appeal was met with the hoped for response, the justification of the group's ideal would be a matter of very tangible record.

The community was therefor asked to provide funds for a theatre of its own on a basis peculiarly suited to the nature of the project. Shares of stock in the Lobero Theatre Company were offered for public sale, the proceeds to go to the reconstruction of the old Lobero Theatre, or Lobero Opera House, and the purchasers, of course, to be part owners of the theatre which was thus made possible.

The requisite amount of stock was sold - in the community. If the project had been of a purely commercial character, with the premise of making fortunes for is share holders, the fact that these hundred individuals took stock would be no more than a mediocre showing. But the fact that three hundred people of the community saw fit to take stock in a fundamental non-commercial, artistic venture, for the sake of assuring the presence of Drama in the city - that was indeed a precious hostage for the disciples of a richer community life.

The tale of services voluntarily rendered in the history of the Community Arts Association is a long and worthy one. We must content ourselves with pointing out again that this Lobero Theatre is a symbol of something genuine and fine in our community life.

Production History

Opening Play Company
May 24, 1933 The Cricket on the Hearth Pasadena Playhouse
Apr 23, 1929 The Royal Box
Apr 12, 1929 untitled starring Doris Keane Belasco & Butler
Mar 29, 1929 The Gift of Eternal Life Community Arts Association
Mar 26, 1929 The Mother Goose Rhymes Santa Barbara Junior League
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