FAIRFIELD — Connie Lisec has no desire to return to 1972.
That’s when she arrived in Fairfield and looked for what was happening on the local arts scene. There was an effort under way to save the old Armijo High school auditorium.
“When that failed, it broke my heart,” she said.
Live theater groups used the community center or Solano Community College until the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts opened in 1990 in downtown Fairfield.
“The thought of having an actual theater in the city seemed like a dream come true,” Lisec said.
She recalled there were years when theater groups fought for dates to use the venue. There was even a performing arts series that bought national acts to the theater’s stage.
When the economy took a hit, so did the theater and the local arts scene.
Last year, Solano College shuttered its theater program. The city threatened to close the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts due to budget issues. That didn’t happen after the city reached an agreement with the Downtown Theatre Foundation for the Arts.
Today, Lisec serves as president of the foundation, which runs the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts.
“Here I am doing what I can to keep the doors open,” she said.
In the six months since the city turned over the keys to the foundation, the theater welcomed the Buckingham Charter High School Glee Club. And when Pepperebelly’s was destroyed by fire in late January, the theater offered them a temporary home.
Albeit through tragedy, Dae Spering, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the theater, said Pepperbelly’s was a great acquisition.
“This building is open,” Spering said. “People are performing here. We are back and we are thriving.”
There are still challenges. While operating expenses are covered, the foundation would like to have a cushion. It hopes to raise some of that Sunday at the inaugural March Red Carpet Night. The event will include a sampling of all the entertainment at the theater, as well as local food, wine and brews.
Two special guests – Jim Coleman, who has performed on Broadway, and Fairfield’s own Johanna McKenzie Miller – will perform. Coleman worked with North Bay Opera in the 1990s. McKenzie Miller works on the stages in Chicago and returned last year to star in Missouri Street Theatre’s production of “Chess.” She’ll return again this summer to play Fantine in Missouri Street Theatre’s production of “Les Miserables.”
Other groups that use the facility, such as North Bay Opera and Solano Winds, will also showcase their talents.
The foundation is also seeking donors.
Robert Brodney, vice president of the foundation board, knows there are donors out there, mentioning that Solano Land Trust recently received a $1 million donation.
“This could all be over quickly if we just find a few of them,” Brodney said of potential large donors.
Brodney said he’s learning that people don’t know the theater exists. Spering and Lisec said they are meeting people who think the building is shuttered.
“By saving this building, we are saving so many facets of the arts,” Spering said. “We are giving the arts a place to perform.”
There is currently no money for capital improvements. That’s something Lisec said she would like to see. She envisions the theater with a marquee.
“People need to see a constant reminder we are here,” she said. “We’ve got to light this place up like the top of the Chrysler building (in New York).”
Keeping the theater vibrant will mean a more vibrant downtown, Brodney and Lisec said.
“It’s going to be an evolution of gradual changes,” Lisec said. “Patience is required on everyone’s part.”
She has faith in the community.
“There are so many people eager to see us succeed,” she said.
In Spering’s office, one wall features a dry-erase board with dates for rehearsals, performances and meetings. Lisec sees that as a triumph.
“It’s filling up and that’s heartwarming,” she said.
For information on Sunday’s gala and upcoming performances, visit www.downtowntheatre.com.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.