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Campbell squatters?

By JAMIE JOBB
Special to the Tribune

Anchor tenant Onstage Repertory may be “squatting” at the Martinez Campbell Theater for its current production, “Let Me Hear You Smile,” which runs through Sunday, Sept. 6.

A renegotiated sublease with City of Martinez had yet to be completed when scenery went up and tech rehearsals began late in July. The lease for the building had termed out in June after a year of stalled negotiations. Amended extensions of the original 2005 lease and sublease were adopted at last week’s City Council meeting.

But the day after Council met, a legal issue surfaced regarding viable corporate status of the building owners about a corporate name change which jeopardizes their ability to enter into valid California contracts. City officials anticipate correcting the contract problem at future council sessions. Meanwhile the show goes on at the Campbell.

With a three-year sublease due to start in September, Campbell manager Mark Hinds expects many companies other than Onstage to vie for spots on the theater’s tight calendar. During the last year of the lease, the theater was occupied 280 nights, with a total of 125 performances before live audiences.

Other groups that have used the Campbell include Bay Area Stage Productions, Pittsburg Community Theater, Dragon Viper Cobra improv, Women of Words Productions, Hearts for Drama student group, illusionist Timothy James family magic shows, Bill Chessman’s Live Radio productions, as well as one-time performances by Will and Debi Durst’s traveling Year-End Stand-Up comedy team, Hometown Hero Joe DiMaggio’s 100th birthday celebration in November, plus two spectacular solo shows by talented female vocalists Jené Bombardier of Martinez and YouTube sensation Amy Walker, who launched her international stage tour at the Campbell in January.

Cultural cross-fertilization with wide-ranging community involvement is something the now defunct Willows Theater Company publicly promised but never could deliver in Martinez. After that popular troupe succumbed to harsh economics, the City accepted a proposal from Onstage which became “houseless” when its Pleasant Hill theater was condemned in 2008.

Unlike the Willows, Onstage has been willing to share the Campbell with other performers and companies, although sometimes that has meant schedule conflicts.

After the lease snafu gets corrected and word spreads that the intimate 99-seat theater is no longer dark, Hinds expects to be hearing from groups who’ve used the space in the past, as well as new performers needing a stage. Or as Hinds, ever the showman, likes to put it, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

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