The Circle Theatre is a landmark rich in Hollywood history.
Built in 1910 and originally two properties, the northern building was one of Hollywood’s earliest movie houses known first as The El Centro Theatre and later The Ivy Theatre by 1915.
The southern building on the corner of El Centro and Waring housed both a grocery store and a vitamin factory until 1947 when its history as a stage house began.
Purchased with a down payment of $200, the space (although in need of a full makeover) was a much-needed upgrade for a popular, young theatre company whose former venue was a cramped, living room in Hollywood.
The young company, known as The Circle Players, had been formed by seven UCLA drama students: Ilyana Yankovich, Margie True, Jerry Epstein, Marilyn Clark, Patricia Englund, Dan Matthews, and Julian Ludwig.
By the time they took residence on the corner of El Centro and Waring, the company had expanded to include the next-generation of Hollywood legends: Edward G. Robinson Jr., George Burns Jr., Sydney Chaplin, and Charles Chaplin Jr. ... Charlie Chaplin, himself, often provided directorial services for the young company.
Their first production in the space was Ethan Frome and The Circle Theatre was born.
The company produced 23 plays in three years and by the end of 1948, expanded to include the adjoining space, dubbing it The New Theatre Wing, dedicated to experimental work. The second space opened with a new translation of Strindberg’s The Father.
After The Circle Players’ disbanded, former company publicist George Boroff managed the theatre in the 50’s and 60’s, sending many of the produced plays there to Broadway.
The building housed many small companies until the mid-seventies when entrepreneur Ted Schmitt created The Cast Theatre in the former New Theatre space, and the Cast-at-the-Circle in the original store-front space.
The entire complex was later renamed The El Centro Theatre and saw rental productions in both spaces: the 99-seat Circle Theatre and the 45-seat Chaplin Stage.
In 2011, RED DOG SQUADRON produced Karl Gajdusek's Greedy to sold-out houses in the 99-seat space and the following year, the company purchased the building in partnership with Matt Shakman’s Black Dahlia Theatre Company.
The building underwent extensive renovations for nearly four and half years and now houses both RED DOG and Black Dahlia. The two companies plan to open the state-of-the-art theatrical space in 2017, returning it (once again) to its original moniker: The Circle Theatre.