Maverick Theater

Address: 110 East Walnut Avenue
Fullerton, CA 92832
Phone: 714-526-7070

History:

His latest,  "The King," poses the question "What would happen if Elvis  Presley had gone into a cryogenic freeze in August 1977 and been brought  back to life today, in 2002?"

Newell's  elaborate, multimedia production got its world premiere this summer at  Stages Theater in downtown Fullerton. During its seven-week run, only  one performance failed to sell out, so Newell started to think bigger.

"Given  their social popularity, I had always wanted to bring theater to an open-air  mall environment such as The Block at Orange, Irvine Spectrum or Triangle  Square," Newell said by phone recently.

As "The  King" was nearing its Aug. 3 closing, Newell and his producing partner,  Jim Book, discussed several mall locations as possible venues where the  show could be moved. Phoning The Block, Newell was passed from one person  to another, ultimately speaking with leasing manager Caren Miller.

Miller had  to do some research, but in early August, she met with Newell and Book,  offering them the 25,000-square-foot space vacated by Mars Music in March.

"As  it turns out," Newell said, "she (Miller) had always wanted  a theater company at The Block but never knew who to call." Newell  and Miller have devised a temporary lease arrangement that Newell said  "works for both of us."

Arriving  at the space Aug. 13, Newell and Book were faced with the prospect of  converting what was essentially a retail location into a bona-fide performance  venue. Their original target date was Aug. 16, the 25th anniversary of  Elvis' death. That goal was unrealistic, as was the prospect of opening  before Labor Day weekend.

Letting the  space sit unoccupied was also not an option, so Newell, his wife, Heidi,  and partner Book have been working around the clock to convert the space  and rehearse the cast, which now includes several new performers and band  members. The space opens tonight as The Maverick Theater, the new, semipermanent  home of "The King."

Book, who  runs his own company, Handless Man Theatrics, is an old hand at turning  odd spaces into theaters. The Maverick is the sixth theater he has designed  (the others include The Chance and Stages). He's been involved in every  major production launched by Newell, helping him realize his artistic  visions via technical wizardry. Newell's ideas are usually large- scale  - he once directed a stage version of "The Magnificent Seven"  - but Book is rarely frightened off.

With the  Maverick, Book said the largest obstacle has been that the space wasn't  designed for running a theater. "Ceiling supports are there only  to hold up the ceiling, not heavy lighting equipment," he noted.  "There are support poles throughout the store which have limited  how wide we could go with the stage and where to put the seats."  Oddly shaped interior walls and electrical power limits have also challenged  his ingenuity.

Visitors  to Mars Music may recall the store's numerous recital rooms around its  perimeter. For the most part, those have been transformed into dressing  rooms and a kitchen area for the actors. The front of the former store  is now a lobby area and box office. The house (seats and stage area) are  toward the center. The "backstage" area is to the sides of and  behind the stage. The store's unseen warehouse is now a scene shop and  a storage area for sets, props and costumes.

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