By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The Gem Theater on Main Street in Garden Grove’s downtown area has had more lives than the proverbial cat.
Built in the mid-Twenties as the Grand Theater, it began with silent films and vaudeville acts. Over the next half-century, it went from the Grand to the Garden to the Gem, from Mary Pickford to Steve McQueen, before closing in the Seventies.
Refurbished and revived in 1979 as a venue for live theater, the Gem was operated by various theatrical troupes until May 2011, when a fire in a dressing room shut the 155-seat facility down.
Since then, theater-goers have been waiting for a re-opening, but the next life of the Gem will still have a wait for a bit.
“The city is done with its part,” said Kimberly Huy, community services director for the City of Garden Grove. The Gem is owned by the city, which contracts currently with One More Productions to manage the facility and stage performances.
But according to Nicole Cassesso, executive director for One More, the completion of the city’s contribution to rehabilitate the theater doesn’t finish the job.
“Construction on the theater is continuing and we are working around the clock to finish a number of projects,” she said in an e-mail message.
“We have put in a brand new stage floor, the sound system has been installed and we received a grant from the city to purchase one of the most amazing lighting systems available for a venue of this size,” she continued. “The building has also received a facelift with new doors, flooring and paint.
“We are very eager to get the doors open soon and hope to have more information on an opening date within a few weeks,” the message concluded.
Originally, artistic director Damien Lorton was hopeful that the Gem would be reopened as early as April 2012. That and other estimated re-opening dates have passed.
One More Productions stages musical comedy shows. “Chicago” was set to open when the fire struck.
The show was eventually staged at the adjacent outdoor Festival Amphitheater instead, but that was the last play produced by One More since the fire.