The Downey Civic Theatre opened 1970, the vision of then theatre director John Hume. In 1955, Downey’s Parks and Recreation department sponsored Hume to launch of the Downey Children’s Theater, which began in an elementary school auditorium. Its first play drew an incredible 200 children to audition and quickly grew to serve an annual audience of 75,000. Other programs came alongside the children’s theatre, including the Civic Light Opera, adult theatre, experimental theatre, teen theatre, reader’s theatre and marionettes. Hume lobbied for a decade for a permanent theatre, and it was to become the city’s first large building project, even before they built a new city hall. Its first year was a success, with an audience of 105,000, though controversy always surrounded the city’s support for the theatre. When 1978 brought Proposition 13, the city faced huge budget cuts, and the theatre was hit hard. All the programs shut down, except for the profitable Civic Light Opera. The Downey Theatre today survives off of a limited amount of rentals, three annual musicals from the Civic Light Opera, three concerts by the Downey Symphony, dance recitals, community and school events.
The theatre seats 738 (516 orchestra, 222 balcony). Its main stage is 50 feet wide, 56 feet deep and 23 feet high. Two smaller “wing” stages on either side have about 305 square feet of space each. It is a fully equipped facility with professional sound and lighting, orchestra pit, loading dock, staging area, green room, dressing rooms, and an outside patio for concessions and receptions. It is located in the center of the city of Downey (population 113,000) near the civic center, library, and Embassy Suites hotel, with ample free parking.
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