Cheryl Sykes, Sue Kempf, Francine Scinto, Mary Lawson and Karen Wood. (Coastline Pilot / November 10, 2011)

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The Laguna Playhouse has launched the Players Club with a goal of attracting new theatergoers, rekindling old relationships and helping raise money for the theater's operations.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson organized the club and its launch at the Pacific Edge Hotel on Nov. 10, signing up new members for the support group before the party ended. Playhouse officials had sought her assistance as a professional fundraiser.

"Just about everyone who lives in Laguna Beach or is associated with Laguna Beach knows this is a community that appreciates the arts and it is a community that likes to have fun," Pearson said. "So with that in mind, I thought why not combine the two into something that will bring all of us who love Laguna together and, at the same time, help the Playhouse. The outcome is what we are calling the Players Club."

Pearson is its founding member. The club's roster of other members, whom she recruited at the launch, include David Sanford and Steve Dotorotos, Mary and Matt Lawson, Otis Healy and former Mayors Kathleen Blackburn and Cheryl Kinsman.

Annual memberships start at $1,000, which can be paid in a lump sum or quarterly. Members receive eight Playhouse tickets, to be used singly or spread over a year, and an opportunity to socialize at three-to-five "invitation only" events held off-site.

Members can benefit from discounts to the Nirvana Grille, Lumberyard, Sundried Tomato, Tommy Bahama's, Laguna Beach Books and Laguna Canyon Winery, which comes with membership in its wine club.

A $3,000-membership adds to the perks the coveted parking behind the theater, free beverages at the bar in the lobby and recognition by the Playhouse media.

"The Playhouse is a treasure that is worthy of our preservation and support," Pearson said. "We would never want to see its doors close.

"It is important to remember that ticket sales alone cannot sustain the Playhouse — and only account for 60 percent of what is required to successfully produce and present world-class live theater and entertainment to our community," she added.

The nonprofit Playhouse is the oldest continuously running theater on the West Coast.

"We were founded in October 1924," said Executive Director Karen Wood. "Plays were performed in private homes then."

The current theater opened in 1969 on land donated to the city by the Moulton family.

Among the well-known actors that have trod the boards: Nanette Fabray, Roddy McDowell, Barbara Eden, Marlo Thomas, Sally Struthers, Julie Harris, Harrison Ford and Bette Davis, who gave a reading to help raise funds.

More recently, Cloris Leachman and Rita Rudner have appeared at the Playhouse, Wood said.

Newly appointed Artistic Director Annie Wareham presented a preview of what is coming up at the Playhouse: A season with six professional plays, special engagement like the Hershey Felder performances as George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin; Youth Productions such as "Looking for Home," which is now playing; and collaborations with local performing arts groups.

For more information about the Player's Club, send an email to epearson@adworx.net, or call (949) 497-7128.