Camino, Caminito, Cameo Theaters
Theatre Academy History
The Los Angeles City College Theater Department has been in existence so long that grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the first graduating classes are able to attend the school. To borrow a line from Thornton Wilder, "How did this all begin?"
Los Angeles City College started in 1929, using the buildings and site formerly used by UCLA on North Vermont. Prior to 1929, the first College President, William H. Snyder, had contacted Harold Turney, a Universal talent scout, who had a training theater at the Studio called the Playcrafters. By the time LACC occupied the campus, Snyder, Turney, and the studio heads had agreed to move the Playcrafters operation to the campus and use the huge inherited auditorium for its activities.
The first production of the Theater Department used the spot lights, scenery, etc. from the studio, and the first students were enrolled. During the first production, The Queen's Husband, Mr. Turney became ill and Jerry Blunt, a graduate theater student at UCLA and a member of the Playcrafters group since 1927, came back to the campus to help direct. After his graduation, Mr. Blunt was hired by LACC. The two men, Turney and Blunt, established the basic philosophy of the department: that the productions themselves form the climax of the student's course, and that the student appear before the public as many times as possible each semester. To that end, an extensive system of classes embracing all phases of the dramatic field was organized as a part of the regular college curriculum.
In 1931 a Little Theatre was created in what had once been a women's gymnasium. During the 1930s and until World War II the department operated two theaters, the Little Theatre and the larger auditorium. Following the war, a third theater was added which featured central staging. This welcome addition was adapted from a bungalow, a war emergency building. Plays were alternately scheduled, according to the adaptability and needs, into each of these three theaters, giving students opportunities for a variety of stage experiences.
In 1959, the large auditorium was razed to make way for the new Administration Building and in 1963 the Little Theatre was razed to make way for the new Theatre Building. The demise of the Little Theatre was not without emotion as it had been the "home" of the Theater Department for over 32 years and many a student had enshrined it in memory. With the opening of the new Theatre Building, the Theater Department had, at last, a well designed proscenium theater to accommodate the activities of the Department.
Prior to the leveling of the Little Theatre, the Engineering Annex was pressed into service as an "Interim Theater." Fortunately, for three and a half years it proved to be a most workable playhouse, and the training of students never slackened.
GI GIRLS I & II
During World War Il, the girls in the department organized a variety show that they named the GI Girls. Each weekend they were bussed to bases in Southern California to perform. They were so popular and had so many requests that a second troupe was formed, called GI Girls II. The soldiers who drove the busses were always amused because their orders were to "pick up the girls" at the intersection of Lily Crest and Heliotrope.
(The play with the most performances was Alice In Wonderland. It played 40 performances, twice a day for 20 days, to over 100 children each performance = over 4000 children. What a nice record.)
(Historical Notes compiled by Professor Emeritus Norman Mennes)
Los Angeles City College
855 N. Vermont Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90029