In 1999, concerned that Twentynine Palms area youth were not being exposed to the live arts, a group of citizens began putting on plays using School District facilities. The goal was not to train performers, but to train audiences, to provide young people with a lifelong appreciation for the theatre arts.
In 2000 they formalized “Theatre 29” as an arts organization. The City of Twentynine Palms invited them to share a building at 73637 Sullivan Road with the 29 Palms Youth Club, a short time later the Youth Club moved to Luckie Park.
Theatre 29 became a program of 29 Palms Park and Recreation, with the City providing the building and the volunteer board running the theatre arts program. Volunteers did major renovations and improvements to the building; stage, light and sound booth, three restrooms, green room, carpeting, curtains, new risers and floor seating for an audience of 91, and an extension of the backstage area, all by volunteers supported by generous donors and patrons.
In 2003, still part of the city, Theatre 29 received an $80,000.00 CDBG block grant for landscaping, paving, outside lighting, curbs and gutters. Shortly after, at their expense, Theatre 29 built a 20 x 30 metal storage/workshop building facility.
In December 2005, Theatre 29, in need of outside funding, amicably broke from the City, became an independent organization, received a 501(c)3 tax-exempt designation (EIN 55-808217) from the IRS, joined the American Association of Community Theaters, and acquired their own insurance policies.
In 2006 Theatre 29 was awarded an $80,000.00 CDBG block grant for air conditioning and heating. Theatre 29 entered a ten-year lease, $1.00 a year, for the building provided “for the public good” by the City. Theatre 29 pays support costs such as utilities, phone, trash, minor maintenance, etc. The City pays for major building repairs unrelated to play production.
Theatre 29 then partnered with the City for a 30x40 metal storage building with the City providing $15,000.00 and Theatre 29 providing $15,000.00 in engineering, concrete, and labor.
In 2017, after having a large percentage of military kids and families involved in our productions, The Officers Spouse’s Club aboard the Twentynine palms Marine Base invited us to apply for their community grant program. They gave us enough to pay for half of desperately needed carpet for the Theater, U.S. Bank, hearing of the need, granted the second half of the funds and the new carpet-tiles were installed in July.
A big highlight is the Theatre 29 Summer Youth Program which produces children’s productions in an intense 5-week program. Over 60 area children, including many from the nearby Marine base, are involved. A Grant from U.S. Bank and the City of Twentynine Palms enabled the Youth program to offer the program at reduced cost. The children’s program is richly mixed ethnically. Of interest, for our 2016 program, we brought in a make-up consultant from the Ben Nye Theatrical make-up company. He did a skin tone test on all the kids and we had a total of 24 different skin tones enrolled in the program!
In the 19 years Theatre 29 has operated from the City facility, they have produced 124 productions viewed by about 15,000 patrons, involving some 2,000 volunteers, children, active duty military and dependents, teens, and adults.
While arts organizations around the state are struggling, Theatre 29 remains sustainable and successful, garnering artistic accolades for high quality productions. As a member of the Desert Theater League, “DTL”, an organization of 39 Producing Organizations in the Morongo Basin and Coachella Valley, Theatre 29 has won many top awards for Direction, Acting, Music, Chorography, Set Design, technical theater and costuming.
Currently an effort is underway, in partnership with the City, to renovate and expand the old theater building to include an area to raise and lower scenery (Fly-Loft) and increase seating capacity to 148. The City Council has approved the design phase of then expansion and are currently working on the final plans.