‘It was a magical place:’ Theater actors found, community come together in farewell show • the Hi-lo
A chorus of monastic “ahs” and “mmms” turned into rapid barks and buzzes, ending in high-pitched “eees” and low “awws.” For obvious reasons, this was usually done without an audience.
“Thank you, that was our show, good night,” joked the evening’s host and director, Lauren Nave, who played the character of her beautiful Southern alter ego, Loretta Lovejoy.
The crowd burst out laughing and did not move from their seats. The show had only just begun, although it would end three hours later with lots of hugs and a few tears.
Sunday, March 13 marked the end of an era for community theater in Long Beach. It was the last show ever performed at the small 37-seat theater on the corner of Long Beach Boulevard and Sixth Street. The Found Theater is one of many victims of upcoming demolition plans for the sprawling City Place complex, which houses the theater among many other businesses in the 14-acre mall.
Although the Found Theater troupe performed in spaces and venues across Long Beach, the location of the complex, which launched in 2005, would become the Found’s longest-running venue and a space that most resembled home for the 48-year-old. business.
“As you know, this mall is being redeveloped and this building is being knocked down, like the Tower of Babel,” Nave said, prompting a shout of “boos” from the audience. .
“But as you know,” Nave continued, “the Found is more than a place.”
As a final hurray and sentimental farewell to community theater, longtime cast members from Found teamed up again to present “Found Farewell,” a three-hour performance that featured scenes and skits from some of the plays and the theater’s most popular musicals.
The sold-out show proved nostalgic for its audience, who often gasped, giggled and audibly noticed as cast members re-enacted their favorites, many of which hadn’t been performed live in decades.
“Found Farwell” demonstrated in a delightfully orchestrated package, the particular brand of magic that made Found Theater plays, most of which were original, so distinct. The plays, often satirical and designed to provoke thought about the social issues of the time, were always delivered with goofy, slapstick, and over-the-top comedy. Even plays with more serious undertones, such as “One Tit Wonder,” about theater founder Cynthia Galles battling breast cancer, were bolstered by the absurd — just imagine cast members wearing shirts sewn with giant, squishy makeshift breasts.
But some of the Found’s most iconic pieces came from impromptu ideas. From horror stories told by flight attendants close to the troupe, the Found created “Beyond the Valley of the Flight Attendants,” a play so popular it helped the theater through a tough financial patch. and inspired several other offshoots, including “Flight Attendants in Outer Space” and “Retired Flight Attendants”.
Between the sketches were videos of past performances and snippets of interviews with Wales, the theater’s founder and passionate leader, who spoke about her trials and triumphs with the theater in a documentary by Michael Dale Brown. Wales died of breast cancer in November 2005, just months after the construction of the Found Theater at the City Complex. After his death, Virginia DeMoss became executive director.
“Virginia carried on for us because she loved Cynthia and loved Cynthia’s ideas,” said actress Joyce Hackett, 73, who joined the Found team 46 years ago and is the longest surviving member. age. “It was a truly magical place…you could play roles you never imagined you could play.”
“Found Farwell” was also a show of gratitude. Maha Afra, owner of the local multicultural dance troupe Maha and Company, sang the praises of DeMoss for enabling her company to dance and hold events at the theatre.
“Virginia DeMoss, she took a chance with us,” Afra said, with obvious emotion, before she and dancer Jasmin Medina launched into a celebratory Middle Eastern-style dance routine.
Jesse Seann Atkinson, who performed several songs during the show, was equally sentimental, “as soon as I walked in, I was home,” he recalled of his first time at the Found Theatre. Atkinson is the founder and artistic director of Mid-World Players, a local theater troupe that has aided the Found during the pandemic largely by hosting live shows. DeMoss planned for mid-world players to wear the Found mantle until demolition shattered their plans.
“We’re looking for a space, the Found will continue,” Atkinson said.
At the end of the show, DeMoss was honored with a standing ovation. She concluded with positive words.
“We will continue,” she said. “We will rise again.”
You can read more about the history of the Found Theater and the upcoming demolition plans for City Place by clicking here.