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Moonlight Stage Productions: Building A Lasting Theater Community In Vista

The Moonlight Amphitheater in Vista, home of Moonlight Stage Productions.

Credit: Ken Jacques

Above: The Moonlight Amphitheater in Vista, home of Moonlight Stage Productions.

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Since its founding in 1981, Moonlight Stage Productions has produced over 180 musical theater shows on its outdoor amphitheater stage under the stars and in the AVO Playhouse, both located in Vista.

The original amphitheater stage—a concrete stage with terraced seating in a local park—was built in 1975 in honor of Vista's bicentennial. A few years later, founder Kathy Brombacher, a high school drama teacher at the time, visited the site—a primitive place with no running water, no electricity and only dirt roads leading in and out. But there was a beautiful ocean view.

Brombacher saw potential, and with the support of the city's parks division and the vision of many dedicated volunteers, a new theater star was born.

"Everything we did was built from the ground up," says Brombacher, 62, who describes the creation of Moonlight Stage Productions as a grassroots effort. This year Brombacher steps down as artistic director after 32 years.

Today, the Moonlight Amphitheater is now a multimillion-dollar facility. Recent renovations completed in 2009 saw the addition of an orchestra pit, stage house, workshop space and backstage dressing rooms, among other upgrades. The improvements were funded by a voter-approved, half-cent sales tax increase. "The relationship between the city and the theater is unique. The city has really made this part of their vision," says Brombacher.

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with Brombacher and longtime local actor Ralph Johnson about the history of Moonlight Stage Productions and its impact on Vista's and San Diego's theater community.

Moonlight Stage Productions' 32nd summer season runs now through October 6. The next production is "Fiddler on the Roof," which opens July 25.


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