Now that the Malibu Stage Company theater is nearly complete, the role of one of its founders is changing. With very few finishing touches remaining to convert the former Shepherd by the Sea Lutheran Church into a 99-seat theater, Malibu’s only professional theater company has a home and Jacqueline Bridgeman has the title of president emeritus.
After nine years of fund raising and personal donations totaling $45,000, including the $25,000 that triggered a matching grant from the city late last year, writer Bridgeman resigned from the MSC board in October and relinquished her leadership role to financier Richard Carrigan.
“Jackie has always been interested in the betterment of the community,” said City Councilman Harry Barovsky in a telephone interview. “She is truly dedicated to the arts and having quality live theater in Malibu. She is one of the unsung activists in this town, a marvelous human being.”
Bridgeman was introduced to co-founder and artistic director Charles Marowitz by Sharon Barovsky when Bridgeman helped her with a fund-raiser for PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists). Marowitz brought in first board members Mary Crosby, Matt Salinger, Leo Penn, Nan Martin and Harry Gesner, as well as the star power of Kathleen Quinlan, George C. Scott, Martin Sheen, Rod Steiger and Trish Van Devere. Bridgeman and Marowitz officially founded the nonprofit organization in 1990.
“I knew Jackie was always very interested in bringing the arts to Malibu,” Sharon Barovsky said. “Jackie is terrific when it comes to working hard for the arts in general and for bringing them to Malibu in particular.”
During her nine-year tenure, Bridgeman primarily handled fund raising and publicity. Some of the larger donations include $11,000 from Jerry Perenchio, $10,000 from Dr. Bette Taicher-Herson and $6,000 each from Robert Altman and James Cameron. Other stellar supporters, those who have “purchased” a name-plaqued seat with a donation of at least $1,000, include Charles Bronson, Johnny Carson, Dick Clark, Tony Danza, Shelley Fabares, David Foster, Kelsey Grammar, Jack Lemmon, Dick Martin and Dick Van Dyke.
Often donations were made after Bridgeman sent people a personal note enclosing the brochure she designed with the help of Patrick Aroff and the WPA Advertising Agency, a brochure still being sent to potential contributors.
Supporting the arts comes naturally to Bridgeman. As a journalist for the Palisades Post and the Malibu Monitor, predecessor of The Malibu Times, she profiled writers Thomas Mann, Christopher Isherwood and Lion Feuchtwanger.
Her most critically acclaimed work, however, came when she ghost-wrote the aviation classic “The Lonely Sky,” a biography of her second husband, William Bridgeman. The test pilot who appeared on a 1953 cover of Time for his flights on the Douglas Skyrocket, a forerunner of the Apollo space program, ironically died on a recreational flight in the late ’60s. Bridgeman also edited a collection of Aldous Huxley essays called “Huxley and God.”
A co-founder of the Frederick Douglas Child Development Center in Watts, Bridgeman has also hosted fetes for Free Arts for Abused Children and Cystic Fibrosis on her 10-acre ranch.
When she resigned from the MSC board, Bridgeman cited managerial style differences with Marowitz but lauded his artistic capabilities. “He makes me furious, but he’s a genius,” Bridgeman said recently, paraphrasing her letter. “We are lucky to have him.”
She sees her president emeritus role as adviser to Carrigan, a self-described “private investor from Wall Street” who has studied philosophy and finance. “I spent most of my life on the ‘Street,'” he said, while showing off the theater with Bridgeman. “Jackie and Charles are introducing me to the workings of the theater. I hope I can make a difference in bringing some principles of business management.”
While ticking off the company’s plans for its first production with its acting ensemble, its children and senior citizens outreach, a “live poet’s society,” and becoming a regional cultural center, Carrigan noted the theater is also available for rentals.
Bridgeman and Carrigan say that an open house for the community is imminent. Bridgeman also wants to honor the 99 seat owners at a gala dinner-dance with surprise celebrity hosts. “I want to be responsible to the people who have supported us all these years,” she said.
Pointing to the theater’s beautiful home across the highway from Heathercliff Drive, Bridgeman added, “I am happy that the theater is up. This is what the community did, this is what the community paid for.”
In a recent press release, Marowitz thanked Malibu Glass, Malibu Country Inn, Leo Damian and Ann Sacks Tile & Stone for material and services. For information or rental, call (310) 456-8226.