Acknowledging a generous $125,000 gift to the Santa Paula Theater Center from the Cole Family (represented by Lee Cole, center) are (from left) Mary Ann Krause of the SPTC Fundraising Committee, Artistic Director David Ralphe, Cole, Board President Gary Nasalroad and Primary Producer Leslie Nichols. Lee Cole (center) is presented with a historic photograph of the-then Ebell Club, now the Santa Paula Theater Center in appreciation of the Cole Family donation to the SPTC. Shown are (from left) Mary Ann Krause of the SPTC Fundraising Committee, Board President Gary Nasalroad, Cole, Primary SPTC Producer Leslie Nichols and Artistic Director David Ralphe.

Cole Family: SPTC donation mixes appreciation of theater, architecture

February 05, 2014
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

Appreciation of the theater with devotion to Santa Paula’s history and architecture resulted in a $125,000 gift to an entity that mixes both.

The Cole Family of Santa Paula has donated the funds to the Santa Paula Theater Center according to SPTC Board Director Mary Ann Krause, who also serves the Fundraising Committee.

Said Krause, “The award was made in recognition of the continued excellence of SPTC’s productions, SPTC’s forward-looking stewardship of the organization, and SPTC’s thoughtful and loving care of its historic building.

“In recognition of this very generous gift,” SPTC’s main auditorium will be named the Cole Family Main Stage.

The Cole Family gift, Krause added, is unrestricted.  

“I love that little theater,” said donor Lee Cole. “The building has an important place in Santa Paula history, and I want to make sure it continues to provide great entertainment to the community.”  

The theater building, the former Ebell Club, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is Ventura County Historical Landmark #76.

Completed in 1917, the building, located at 125 S. 7th St. in the historic Downtown Business District, was designed in the shingle Craftsman style by the famed Los Angeles firm of Hunt & Burns. 

The building will celebrate its centennial in 2017; the SPTC Board hopes to make upgrades prior to the Centennial celebration.

SPTC Board President Gary Nasalroad said the board is “considering some behind-the-scenes modernization projects that will improve the comfort of theater patrons, extend the useful life of the building and enhance theater production values.”  

Such plans please Cole, who has long enjoyed SPTC productions.

He believes theater offers the best of entertainment with compelling stories portrayed on stage rather than the screen.

“It’s live and once those performers get up and get your attention,” Cole said there’s no better experience.

He believes theater is being more and more appreciated as films increasingly become less about story and more about special effects, and,  

“As times goes on people will appreciate the theater even more... “

And that also includes the SPTC building: “There is so much history behind the building, the beauty of it. I love Santa Paula anyway but if I can help in some way to preserve the beauty and history I will. 

“The beauty of these buildings,” said Cole, “lends themselves to making Santa Paula what it is.” 

Critically acclaimed productions at SPTC continue to attract audiences from Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties. Under the leadership of SPTC’s professional artistic director and management team, Santa Paula Theater Center continues to garner accolades from audiences and critics alike for presenting works that are timely, entertain and enlighten as well as raise thought-provoking questions.  

“The Santa Paula Theater Center,” said Nasalroad, “is a rare gem for a small community.”

As the Great Recession took its toll on many theaters locally and across the nation, the SPTC Board realized the need to focus on long-term sustainability while continuing to provide top-flight entertainment in the present.  

In the summer of 2010 the SPTC Board celebrated the Theater’s 25th Anniversary, a milestone few small theaters reach.  

SPTC revived and expanded The Backstage, a black box style performing space that presents newer, edgier works and instituted an annual series of popular concerts featuring both local and regional professional musicians. In addition, SPTC’s annual October fundraiser Ghostwalk continues to attract patrons from San Diego to Montecito and all areas in between for a unique entertainment experience that highlights Santa Paula sites, history and culture. 

In 2012 the SPTC Board launched the successful Comfort Campaign, raising over $28,800 for new seating in the main auditorium and other improvements to provide for the comfort and safety of audiences and enhancement of their theater experience.  

A portion of the Cole Family Donation will be used toward this campaign; additional donations to that campaign are still being accepted with other naming opportunities available.  For more information about donating to SPTC’s Comfort Campaign email 

SPTC will kickoff Season 2014 on February 7 with “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” by playwright Sarah Ruhl. 

The remainder of the season can be found on the SPTC website, 

Reservations can be made online or by calling the Box Office at 805-525-4645.  

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