The Golden Mall Playhouse

by Walt Gilmore

The Golden Mall Playhouse was built from the first bowling alley in the San Fernando Valley - The Academy Bowl, 226 E Tujunga Ave., Burbank. The playhouse was constructed between 1970 and 1973 and ran from 1973 to 1981, when it was pulled down for redevelopment by the city. (The street was even removed.) While operating the playhouse produced 44 plays and musicals.

From promotional text:

The GOLDEN MALL PLAYHOUSE was conceived with two goals: (1) to provide a learning place and showcase for emerging theatre talent and (2) to provide good low cost, readily available, live theatre to the San Fernando Valley.

The PLAYHOUSE is operated by The Curtain Raisers, an organization which boasts a lack of organization. "We concentrate on producing shows without membership meetings, dues and committees," says Walt Gilmore, President of the Curtain Raisers. "We welcome anybody who wants to be a working member backstage, or a subscribing member out front. What we do not do, is to bog down the works with meetings." The organization, incorporated in 1971, works under the direction of a Board whose officers administer the artistic, business and technical aspects of the group. The group was founded by Pamela Kosh, George Strattan and Walt Gilmore. In 1967, the three met in a local little theatre. Together they worked on a series of productions, George and Pam both acting and directing. Walt and George designed the sets and then Walt constructed them for the productions. Eventually the three decided they would like to have their own theatre, built to order.

George Strattan graduated from the State College in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, with a degree in art. From there he went on to attend the American Theatre Wing in New York. After trying his luck on Broadway, he came to California and worked in several films and television shows. Always interested in the theatre, George helped to build and operate four small theatres and eventually became President of the Burbank Little Theatre.

Pamela Kosh was active in several Repertory Theatre groups in England as an actress and director. She came to America in 1960 and worked with theatrical companies in Boston, Miami and, finally, in Los Angeles. Here she began a second career as a character model, appearing in many national magazines. Pamela has also performed in motion pictures and on television.

Walt Gilmore graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Theatre. During his senior year, he was student head of the University Theatre. After a tour of duty with the Army, where he worked as a TV film director, he settled in Los Angeles. Here he became an Assistant Director working primarily in television films.

After a full year of seeking a suitable building within the San Fernando Valley, Pam, Walt and George finally located an old, dilapidated bowling alley in Burbank that contained most of the features for which they were looking: parking facilities, reasonable ceiling height, close proximity to shops and large enough to house more than two hundred seats. Their first job, upon acquiring the property, was to remove the bowling lanes completely, a task which took them five months to accomplish. The alleys were cut in half, turned sideways and then placed on prefabricated supports. These lanes now form the auditorium floor.

Converting the remainder of the property from what if was, to the theatre it is today, proved to be a mammoth job and one which was to take the trio almost four years to complete. If you look closely, you will discover that the walls are hand-stenciled and the frames surrounding the wallpaper-like designs are the original ball returns; The pinspots, of course, are still on the bowling lane floors, and the majority of the wood structure forming the central wall which divides the audience from the actors' dressing rooms, came from the bowling gutters.

Pam (now Mrs. Gilmore), Walt and George are justly proud of their efforts in transforming the building to its current condition. The GOLDEN MALL PLAYHOUSE, which opened in September of 1973, is a jewel box of a theatre with 230 comfortable, well-spaced seats, air conditioning and heating, a clean cozy appearance, plenty of free parking and with easy access to freeways. The quality of its productions is of a very high standard and draws good and repeat audiences from as far away as Long Beach and Bakersfield.

For those traveling through, or living in the San Fernando Valley area, a visit to this unique PLAYHOUSE is a definite "must."

February, 1970.

Pam & Walt Gilmore with George Strattan, the builders and operators.


Opening announcement.

The completed theatre.

"Arsenic and Old Lace"

The Playhouse towards the end of its days.


Golden Mall Playhouse - Partial list of productions (Supplied by Julie Dion)

Bye Bye Birdie, March 11 through May 7, 1977
Goodnight Mrs. Puffin, January 9 through February 28, 1976
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, March 29 through May 18, 1974
A Girl Could Get Lucky, May 31 through July 20, 1974
The Gazebo, October 3 through November 22, 1975
George M, March 12 through May 8, 1976
Macbeth Did It, July 22 through August 27, 1977
Leave It To Jane, September 23 through November 19, 1977
Exit the Body, May 23 through July 12, 1975
Breathe of Spring, October 4 through November 23, 1974
Bells Are Ringing, July 25 through September 20, 1975
A Family Affair, March 14 through May 10, 1975
Wish You Were Here, August 2 through September 21, 1974

The Curtain Raisers - Complete list of productions (Supplied by Walt Gilmore)

Flyer (supplied by Julie Dion)

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