held its grand opening on Saturday, drawing about 50 theater-goers who toured the upgraded facility.
Originally a service station, this historic Agoura Hills landmark, has gone through many incarnations over the years, including the former Stage Door Theater.
Co-owners Cindy Pruitt and Roger Newcome took over the property about two years ago with a dream to build a community theater and music space for both lessons and performance, said Pruitt. "We were looking to offer it to the entire community an opportunity to explore their creativity," said Pruitt. "The renovations took about 10 months and I'm still calculating the cost,"
Pruitt and Newcome both have music backgrounds. Newcome, a former Nashville native and a musician for over 40 years, came to Agoura in 1995 and opened Agoura Music in 1996, then sold it in 2003 to write music. Pruitt is a film-maker with a longstanding passion for the arts.
"I believe it's for those interested in exploring arts, it's hugely beneficial in so many ways, there is no local venue for this," said Pruitt. "We saw an opportunity. A lot of times kids take lessons but they get few opportunities to perform. That's key in the artistic experience and the learning process. Our idea was to create a space where people can have both.”
“This opportunity is so great,” said Newcome. “We live so close by, so we can do the music store, private lessons, theater. This is exactly what my partner and I wanted, it's perfect for us."
Sporting bright purple hair, Amy Verbaten, one of the guitar instructors at Center Stage, brings 10 years of music experience with her to the store. Verbaten also performs in an all girl "Spinal Tap" tribute band that takes her all over the Los Angeles area, including The Roxy, with future performances slated for Las Vegas. “We are trying to take over the world, one Spinal Tap tune at a time," she said.
Event-goers Richard Cunningham and Danielle Handel were on hand for the grand opening. “This is great. They needed an arts infusion in this area,” said Cunningham. “This is beautiful; it's a gorgeous theater. It's a great space for kids to hang out and do something positive in absence of positive things to do."
Shaun Flemming, a 14-year vocal veteran and teacher at Center Stage, brought his indie rock-alternative band "Bad Day Sandwich," which performed both original numbers and cover songs to a packed house.
"I kind of think this is a unique spot. There hasn't really been a school set up like this where you have music and theater. You have everything under the sun, like a one stop shop. Most kids these days aren't focused just on 'I want to play guitar.' t's more like, 'I want to play guitar, and I want to learn how to perform, or a singer might want to do musicals, sing pop, it's a little bit of everything and there's never really been anything like that," said Flemming.
Center Stage offers opportunities like live performance theater, private music instruction, recitials, on-camera classes, casting workshops, improv, open mic nights, kid's night out, indie film festivals and performance parties.
For more information or to sign up for classes, go to the official web site.