Luke Theatre

By on Aug 22, 2014 in Giving, People

It has been over 10 years since The Marjorie Luke Theatre reopened its doors to the public. The performance venue, established in 1933, had passed through the hands of several owners before falling into a state of disrepair. It’s beautiful architecture, history, and Santa Barbarans’ notorious local pride triggered the restoration of the property. Now, the revitalized Luke Theatre is home to over 140 arts and educational organizations and countless visiting performers.

La Santa Cecilia at the Luke

Rick Villa, General Manager at The Luke Theatre has been helping dreams take stage since 2003. He became involved in the arts as a child, though when he entered college he took the sage advice to “have something you can fall back on” and majored in marketing and communications. That path led to an assistant position with the theater and ultimately to management.

Since then, Villa has devoted his efforts to securing affordable access to the arts for Santa Barbarans and providing artists with a beautiful space in which to present their craft.

The Luke Theatre does not produce its own shows. “We’re here to serve our community, offering an affordable house theater for anyone in our community to rent,” says Villa. Competitive pricing and an attractive space has enticed a wide range of performance troupes, school groups, local organizations, and bands to bring their talents to Santa Barbara. “[The pricing] attracts a lot of people to us and we get such a wide range of events coming through our doors, everything from operas to surf movies to plays and mariachi music,” says Villa.

Though everyone is welcomed to rent the space, the theater has a special place in the hearts of youth organizations, many of which use the performing and visual arts as a tool for education. “Arts education is important to youth nowadays since funding is being cut left and right from all sorts of organizations, especially schools,” begins Villa. “Students can learn everything from the arts: confidence, reliability, dependability, cultural understanding. There have been studies that show that arts in the schools help students later on in life; they’re able to focus more, do better in school work, and if they have something fun to do while they’re at school they’re more involved overall in their education.”

Viva el Arte is the theater’s most popular arts education program. Latino artists from around the globe present their skills at local schools, Guadalupe City Hall, and The Luke Theatre. Professionals guide workshops and activities for students and then culminate the week with free performances for families at the theater. The program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

theaters in Santa Barbara, CAThough quality cultural programming is The Luke Theatre’s primary objective, the organization hasn’t overlooked the importance of niceties such as aesthetics and comfort. More than $4 million was invested in the theater’s restoration.

“Yardi gave us a great grant towards our seat restoration project. The actual building is a historical landmark and we have the original seats from 1933. Part of the grant is going towards getting new seat springs and having them all refurbished within the next year. We’re very excited about that,” explains Villa.

There is still more work to be done to bring the performance space to the height of its potential. To show support, patrons are first encouraged to attend local shows and performances. Those who want to go a step further can make a donation or purchase a seat or a wall tile. The theater will dedicate either item to the donor. “There are many ways to support the Luke. Community support is vital to us,” says Villa.