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Community Theater Group is Home at Last

NTC, formerly known as Novato Community Theater and Novato Theater Company, will settle down at a former church in Nave Drive as long as final permits fall into place.

Who gave virtuoso performances worthy of multiple encores to keep the Novato Theater Company anchored in Novato?

The city of Novato staff and elected officials. Turns out they've got some chops.

After years of hunting for a permanent home, NTC — which it calls itself to avoid confusion with the downtown Novato Theater — has signed a 10-year lease at a former church in Hamilton and secured a storage location on city property less than a mile away.

"The city is truly a champion of NTC," said NTC president Sandi Rubay. "The people there recognized that we are an heirloom of the city of Novato, and they value that. They have really been partners, true partners, in helping us get to this point."

Pending safety approvals from the Novato Fire District and a final OK from the city zoning administrator, NTC will have building permits in hand and move into a brown commercial building at 5420 Nave Drive, a few feet from Bolling Drive and Highway 101. The lease is for five years with a five-year option, Rubay said. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The community theater group, whose local roots date to 1919, has been without a permanent home since 2004 when the Novato Community House was red-tagged as a structural hazard by the fire marshal. Previously known as Novato Community Players, the troupe bounced around in vagabond style before finding a temporary home for several years at Pacheco Plaza in Ignacio. But the lease ran out there last year and NTC staged its productions in San Rafael as it hunted for a new home.

City Manager Michael Frank said he is glad the N in NTC has additional meaning now.

"They are key member of our community — they've been around longer than the city itself," Frank said. "It's in everyone's best interests to make sure they landed in a somewhat secure location so they could continue to offer the quality programs they do."

NTC will move into Suite C, between a former Curves gym and a beauty college — a large room NTC board members had tried to secure even before it moved to a 90-seat auditorium at Pacheco Plaza. The Curves location shut down when a truck crashed through the front doors last year.

NTC's plans are to restructure the interior of the 3,608-foot spot, formerly home to Calvary Baptist Church. If the approvals come through, the troupe will embark on a furious fundraising campaign to raise $250,000 over a five-month period to redesign the interior and be ready for a performance of Lion in the Winter. Meantime, NTC will unveil its final show of the 2012-2013 season, The Foreigner, starting May 23 at the new location.

"We'll just set up chairs and build a platform as long as we have the OK from the fire marshal," Rubay said.

In November, NTC signed a two-year lease for the gift of $1 per year for the use of an old warehouse on State Access Road at the former Hamilton Air Force Base. The building as no electricity and needs some repairs, but it will suffice, Rubay said.

"(Mayor) Pat Eklund got the whole thing started," Rubay said. "She spent a day with me as we drove all over Hamilton, looking at vacant buildings and lots that the city owns. I could tell she really cared about helping us."

Eklund introduced Rubay to Frank and property specialist Tom Adams. That working relationship led to the deal for the storage location.

"That took a load off from us having to pay a lot of money to store our stuff," Rubay said. "We are very thankful for that."

Frank said the city made an exception for NTC regarding the storage building.

"It's not like we could rent it out," he said. "As with many of these historic buildings the city owns out there, you need lots of money to bring them up to (modern  building) code and make them ADA accessible (for the disabled). Normally we would not let someone occupy a building in that condition, but given the circumstances and their needs and given that it's a short-term thing, we made it happen."

NTC was in negotiations for a spot on Leveroni Court, formerly home to a dance studio, but the deal never materialized and the rezoning process would've been a hassle.

Being on the move got a little rough for the troupe, so the board decided to postponed its spring musical, "Gypsy," to next season.

Meantime, NTC will showcase Steel Magnolias Feb. 14 through March 10 on a stage at St. Vincent's School for Boys in Marinwood. Click here for ticket information.

 

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