It's a new season at bspac!

Welcome to the 2017-2018 Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center season! We thank you for your support of performing arts in the desert and in making BSPAC an integral and vital part of our community.

My name is Richard Helvig and I am honored to be the current BSPAC president.  I have the difficult task of living up to the legacy of past president, Sue Salt, who was our guiding force for over 9 years. The BSPAC board of directors has enjoyed active and effective membership since its inception in 1991 and I will do my best to honor our traditions while moving the theater forward into the future.

Speaking of the future, we have new owners of the malls of Borrego and the performing arts center; Jim and Anne Wermers. The mall and performing arts center were built in 1965 by the DiGiorgio development company and the last major remodel happened almost 20 years ago. Thanks to Jim Wermers’ enterprising vision, we are embarking on an exciting venture as plans for major theater improvements take shape. Watch for big changes as the season progresses!

But for now - on with the show! We are very excited about this year’s season that showcases 9 performances, some familiar favorites along with fresh productions that we hope you’ll enjoy.  Single ticket prices remain $25 and season passes are available for $200 — a savings of $25 or one performance for free! And this year we’ve added something new: A 4-pass for any 4 BSPAC performances for $90!*

You can count on us for entertainment and we thank you again for your support.

—Your Performing Arts Center Board

*BSPAC presentations only. Does not include Community Concert Series.


 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


 Sue and Haddon Salt

Sue and Haddon Salt

Each new season the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center honors member(s) 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 Sue and Haddon Salt as the theater’s 2017-18 honorees.  

Sue has been an integral part of the theater for many years — serving first in the background on the Board since 2003 and then as Board President from 2008 through May 2017.  Her gracious touch and artful style have been seen in the countless small details she has overseen from arranging food for the opening Galas to decorating the Lobby.  Her attention to detail was essential to the success of our annual Wine Tasting Fundraiser that started small and wonderful and concluded with a raffle of delightful donated items and an auction of memorable events.  From the start, Sue claimed not to be the “administrative” type, yet she oversaw the ticket sales of each production, organized countless details to insure success and attended each and every performance during her Board tenure.  Her personal charisma was responsible for recruiting others to serve as Board members.  Although she greatly disliked being center stage, she worked tirelessly in the background to insure that others shone in the limelight.  With time to spare, she volunteered for Rotary, Soroptimist, Circle of Art, and faithfully assists with the Foodbank and Slab City Ministries on a regular basis. 

Haddon is no less a BSPAC veteran, but on the other side of the lights.  A musician of extraordinary talent, he has played a variety of instruments since his youth performing in countless events including a solo performance at Prince Albert Hall.  He plays horns, saxophone, fiddle and viola, just to name a few.  His musical talents and fine ear have been a great asset to BSPAC over the years.  He and Tony Reilly, our 2013 Honoree, along with Dave Otis and John Ellis produced the first World War II musical.  To insure the best in sound success, Haddon offered his personal sound system to the theatre.  The presentation was so successful that it became an annual series for the next several years to the delight of our patrons.  Haddon graces our stage in all the musical presentations with a show stopping rendition of a wonderful ballad from years gone by.   Don’t miss his golden tones in our December 2017 musical presentation.

It is with pride and great affection that the Board of Directors has selected Sue and Haddon Salt as this year’s BSPAC Honorees.

Previous honorees selected by the Board:

  • 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