After 10 Years, Manazar Gamboa Community Theater Is Now Open

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last week marked an event 10 years in the making: the opening of the Manazar Gamboa Community Theater at Homeland Cultural Center in Long Beach’s MacArthur Park. We started this project early in the evolution of Studio One Eleven and, despite an extremely tight budget, multiple funding delays, and changes in staff and programming, the city’s tireless energy and the needs of the community pushed us forward to completion.

Located in one of the densest and most diverse parts of the city, the building is a small black box theater and community art gallery that has been added to the existing center adjacent to the public library. Our design was developed through a series of town hall meetings where we learned about the goals and needs of this unique area. We also learned that the budget only supported a simple, yet durable, building, and that the community must be able to use it in a variety of ways. Within the constraints, however, we strove to provide a civic presence: two dynamic, opposed, sloping roof forms address both the Anaheim Street frontage and the park orientation, while the performances within the theater will complement the rich programming already staged by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Part of the design even provided blank walls as canvases for “street art” but, except for a mural of Manazar Gamboa, that program was eventually – and unfortunately – cut.

We were hired by the former Homeland site director, Dixie Swift, and we were inspired by her tireless energy and obvious love for the community. Dixie was clear that the legacy of Manazar Gamboa, an ex-con who redeemed himself with poetry and theater, was to be honored in a place where the community could come together to tell its stories; writers’ workshops, readings, dances, and plays – all performed by local talent – will now illuminate the space.

We are proud to have been involved in a project that’s so uplifting for the community – and to have learned some valuable lessons along the way.


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