Welcome to the 2019-20 season!

The BSPAC board wishes to extend our thanks to those who contributed to our ‘Buy a Seat’ program last year, to all our season ticket holders and to all attendees of our events. Without your support we would not be able to continue to provide live entertainment on stage for your enjoyment.

We have an exciting evening planned for opening night this season. Our gala will begin at 6 pm in the Center Courtyard on November 16, 2019, with refreshments and treats followed a performance at 7 pm by “Britishmania” — a Beatles Tribute Band (www.british-mania.com).

Our schedule for the BSPAC season will consist of 10 events, concerts and plays. Tickets may be purchased through this website, at the Bighorn Fudge Co in The Center or at the theater box office on the night of the event.

There will be some changes in the schedule this year. All of the BSPAC events will begin at 7:00 pm rather than 7:30 as in the past. (Please take note that performances by other organizations may have differing start times.) Some things will not change - we will continue to have cocktails provided by the Palms at Indianhead starting an hour before events. Also, back by popular demand, Judy Coyle will be providing cookies at intermission as a means of supporting our dance program.

Our BSPAC season as well as the Community Concert Season, the ABDNHA Lectures, and the Borrego Springs Film Festival in January should provide an exciting theater season in Borrego Springs.

Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center Board

Richard Helvig, President


Lon Chaney Jr.

Lon Chaney Jr.

Ruth Gordon

Ruth Gordon

The history of the Performing Arts in Borrego Springs usually comes as a surprise to anyone not closely associated with this unique desert community...

Lon Chaney Jr. of the famed theatrical family started a community theater group in Borrego in 1950.  The Little Theater Group performed before limited audiences at the old Hoberg Resort Hotel (now the Palms Hotel at Indian Head) which in the 40s and 50s hosted such glitter as Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby and Marlon Brando.  Paula "Polly" Baker, very well known in the East as Paula Dale with the Greenwich Theater, New York City, picked up the torch left by Chaney in 1952.  In 1955 the group presented "Years Ago", written by Ruth Gordon.  A success, the group was invited to present the play for the entertainment of patients at the San Diego Naval Hospital.

The Little Theater Group reorganized in March 1954 as the De Anza Players with Polly Baker as producer-director.  Barbara Bartko became deeply involved in the De Anza Players in 1961 when Baker's duties at the Borrego Sun newspaper took more of her time.  Bartko's theater training started in Cleveland and continued in Long Beach.  A popular artistic director, she held the reins of the organization until 1971, serving as both president and artistic director.  Bartko directed over 50 plays during her career. De Anza Players performances were presented on the wing-less proscenium stage at Borrego Springs Elementary School.

In November 1978, the inactive De Anza Players supported the organization of the Sunrise Players.  Lisa Bruce and Joan Wright (Warren and Toni Young's daughter) organized the group, whose first production was Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," presented in March 1979 at the Elementary School.  Under the artistic direction of Jared Fey, a professional actor and member of Actors' Equity, Sunrise Players second production, "The Grouch," a Greek New Comedy by Menander, was performed in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Palm Canyon campfire center and then taken to the North County Renaissance Faire in Vista. With tremendous local support of community members, businesses and irreplaceable fund-raising efforts of Betty Stout, Jared and his wife, Rosemary, were able to present quality community theater productions for 8 years.  Sunrise Players most ambitious project was the musical "Oliver" with a cast of more than 130!  The joint production by Sunrise Players and Borrego Springs High School (BSHS) was an acclaimed success.  Proceeds allowed Sunrise Players to present a $1000.00 donation to the Associated Student Body at BSHS as the school's share of profits.  Jared Fey continued as artistic director until his passing in 1985.  Sunrise Players' last production, "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday", was presented in March 1987 under the artistic direction of Rosemary Fey.

George Duning

George Duning

Thanks to the efforts of Dori Holladay, then general manager of the La Casa del Zorro resort, the Little Fox Dinner Theater opened in May 1987 in the Casa's Kiva Room.  Jacqueline Kerr Dye, (professional actress, member of Actors' Equity and a founder of San Diego's Gaslamp Theater), was the producer and Artistic Director.  In January 1990 the Little Fox presented "Some of These Days", an original musical production by [George Duning] Gayle Dunne based on the later years of the famous 1930's entertainer Sophie Tucker.  The production featured six songs made famous by Tucker, another six by Dunne and one on which Dunne collaborated with Hollywood prize-winning composer and Borrego resident, George Duning.

In 1991 Varina French, founder of the Borrego Dance & Fitness Center in 1986, began working with Jimmy Corsaro and Sharon Andrews of Way-Off Broadway Productions to create the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center.  The three served on the original Board of Directors along with Virginia Perrin, Jere Hansen, Collette McKee (head of the Children's Theater), George Duning, Rose Grant, Susan Wetzel, Frank Murillo and Richard Plunket.  The Borrego Springs Movie Theatre has been transformed into the present Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center with a seating capacity of 177.  Robie Evans was the Artistic Director and Ray Evans was the Technical Director of the Performing Arts Center for many years. Austin Custodia served as Artistic Director from 1997-2010; Currently, Board Member Tony Reilly directed the two plays for 2012-2013 season, continuing the tradition of live entertainment in Borrego Springs.

During the 1950's, Borrego Springs was a favorite hideaway for Hollywood stars, including:

[1] Borrego Springs' Honorary Mayor
[2] Borrego Springs' first Honorary Mayor
[3] Founder of community theater in Borrego Springs

 The Movie Industry and Borrego

See also: Borrego Springs on The New Desert Times


Judy Coyle

Judy Coyle

Each new season the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center honors members of our community who have contributed their time, talent, and hard work to the performing arts. It is with great pleasure we announce that the Board has chosen Judy Coyle as the theater’s 2018-19 honoree.

Judy arrived in Borrego in 1982, having spent a year in Newfoundland and from 1965 to 1970 teaching 2nd and 3rd grades in Germany. After being overseas she returned to La Mesa, CA and worked as an office manager until she came here. With her move to Borrego she had hoped to find a bowling alley and a good place to raise her son. She missed the bowling alley by a year (now the Center Market) but found “The Borrego Dance and Fitness Center” under the direction of Varina French. It not only offered tap and ballet but also classes in fencing and Tai Chi. Judy jumped into tapping and has never stopped. Judy also sang with the “Chordally Yours Singers” under the direction of Robbie Evans, Jinny Perrin and later Betty Gordon.

The current Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center was founded in 1991. Judy Coyle joined the Board of Directors in 1992. For 26 years, Judy has served on the BSPAC board. Until recently she held the position as Treasurer. She was in charge of all ticket sales, sent out letters for donations, season passes, and contributions to the endowment fund. She supported four previous board presidents in many other capacities. Although she has resigned from those responsibilities, she will continue serving on the board as head of the dance program. The dance program is an integral part of our designation as an exempt non-profit society.

Judy did find a great community to raise her son, who graduated from Borrego Springs High School in 1987. Judy continued her teaching career until her retirement in 2006. Judy served on the Borrego Springs School Board for six years and she currently volunteers at the elementary school library two days a week. She was re-elected to the school board in the recent election.

Judy bakes the cookies for intermission. The donations support the dance program, so please enjoy a delicious cookie and congratulate Judy for her well-deserved title of this season’s Honoree

We all thank Judy for her incredible commitment to this organization and to the community.

Previous honorees selected by the Board:

  • Sue and Haddon Salt

  • Jere Hansen

  • Paulette Ache and Bill Holst

  • Tony Reilly

  • The Terry Family

  • Mary McLellan

  • John and Lois Drum

  • Jim and Sally Lindeman

  • Fred and L'Louise Jee

  • Cindy Wood and David Liebert

  • Harry and Grace Preston

  • Audry Steele Burnand