Livermore agrees to sale of downtown land for future “theater lab”.

LIVERMORE — A portion of the burgeoning Stockmen’s Park area in downtown Livermore is being sold to a local theater organization to build a black box theatre, a flexible performing arts and training space that could host hundreds of events each year.

Livermore City Council unanimously approved plans to sell a roughly 14,000-square-foot lot in the southwest portion of the park, west of Blacksmith Square and north of Veterans Way, to a group called SPARC, which has been around for nearly two decades and named the Livermore Shakespeare Festival.

The Shakespeare & Performing Arts Regional Company (SPARC) has for several years been a leader in obtaining permits for a performance venue as part of the city’s downtown vision.

The City Council’s approval Monday to sell the property for $10,000 allows the nonprofit arts group to conduct extensive fundraising efforts to meet the estimated $20 million cost of planning, designing and building the space.

Lisa Tromovitch, the group’s producing artistic director and founder, said the space will be something of a “theater laboratory,” with seats that are not fixed to the floor and a performance space that can be configured as needed by the groups performing will bring it to life.

“We have a dozen or more core cultural groups that have already said they want to present, perform and teach in this building,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.

Part of the agreement with the city is that the space must host 100 performances, rehearsals, training, cultural events, and other activities during its first year of operation, and 150 or more each year thereafter.

The theater will also pay $10,000 annually for the maintenance of the Stockmen’s Park area, which will include the theater and eventually a science and learning center, as well as an existing oval grass area honoring Livermore’s ranching heritage.

Tromovitch said the annual Shakespeare Festival, held over several weekends throughout the summer with live performances in vineyards, will remain unchanged, but the theater will allow her company to expand into year-round productions alongside other arts and culture groups.

The Bankhead Theatre, just steps from the park, is a great venue for performances, but its size can make it too expensive for many local groups to rent and operate, she said. Black box theater will fill that need and grow more groups that help build and sustain culture in the diverse region, Tromovitch said.

“It allows the groups to explore, create new work and bring in experimental pieces,” she said.

“If you’re trying to build your business, you have to build it somewhere that people can come and you don’t lose your shirt when you rent the facility,” she said.

Organizations that have already expressed an interest in performing there include the African-American Shakespeare Company of San Francisco; Golden Thread Productions, which performs plays from or about the Middle East; Futures Explored Inc., an advocacy group that operates a film education program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; Kalaikoil Dance and Arts of India; and Rhythmic Innovation, a drum program; as well as some other local dance and performance groups.

Tromovitch also said the space could be used both indoors and outdoors for youth after-school programs and drama training, as well as homework clubs.

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