Geffen Playhouse Site History
The building that is currently the Geffen Playhouse dates back to 1929 as one of the first 12 structures in Westwood, California. It was built as a Masonic clubhouse to serve UCLA students and alumni until its sale to local business owners Donald and Kristen Combs in the early 1970s. The Combs family restored many of the building's original design elements, including the central courtyard and tile fountain, and reopened the building to include a furniture store named Contempo, an Italian restaurant and a theater they dubbed the Westwood Playhouse.
In 1995 the Combs family donated the structure to UCLA under the premise that it would remain a theater in perpetuity, and that Gilbert Cates (founder of the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television) would assume the management. Cates, who for years had been advocating that Westwood have its own world-class theater, took the project on wholeheartedly and began rallying the local arts and entertainment community for support. After pooling resources, fundraising, and putting together a board for the burgeoning non-profit, Cates renamed the theater the Geffen Playhouse in honor of entertainment mogul David Geffen’s generous founding gift. The new playhouse officially opened its doors in 1995 with a hit production of John Patrick Shanley’s Four Dogs and a Bone starring Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Perkins, Parker Posey and Martin Short. Since then the theater has hosted over hundreds of plays, musicals and special events and received numerous dramatic and architectural awards.
In 2001, the organization embarked upon a $17 million capital campaign to upgrade the facility to a state-of-the-art theater capable of providing world-class productions, while restoring the building's original craftsmanship and beauty. In September 2005 the entirely renovated Geffen Playhouse re-opened in Westwood with features like plush wide seats, newly crafted acoustics and upgraded lighting that emphasizes the stunning elegance of the theater's historic setting.
Named after Geffen Playhouse founder, Gil Cates, in spring of 2010, this 512 seat performance space is large enough to accommodate larger musicals but usually houses contemporary and classic plays, including world premieres and second productions as well as re-imaginings of timeless works.
The Gil Cates Theater usually houses five season productions (running for six weeks or more) as well as frequent special events including concerts, holiday productions and play readings. This theater also houses several education and outreach performances and events each year.
Guided by the vision and funding of Mrs. Audrey Skirball Kenis, the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse was built in September 2005 as part of the Geffen Playhouse's $17 million renovation. "The Audrey's" fixed and variable seating (with a maximum capacity of 149) was inspired by the artistic desire for a flexible setting that accommodate the creative needs for works ranging from cabaret performances to world premieres. The result is a venue in which patrons are frequently treated to work from acclaimed artists in one of the most unique and intimate spaces in Los Angeles. A mix of concerts, play readings and family theater productions round out the relatively short but extraordinarily successful history of the Audrey - making it one of the most preferred venues for artists and patrons alike. The Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater usually houses three season productions (running for six weeks or more) as well as special events.