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Tue, 06.20.1950

The Ebony Showcase Theater and Cultural Arts Center Opens

The Ebony Showcase Theater and Cultural Arts Center

 *On this date in 1950, we celebrate the Ebony Showcase Theatre and Cultural Arts Center (ESTCAC), Inc. Originally opened in 1923, as the Rimpau Theatre, Washington & Rimpau streets in Los Angeles. The location was on the south side of the street, five blocks east of La Brea Ave.

Its seating capacity was 750, and in 1932 or earlier, it was renamed the Metro Theatre. It's listed that way in the 1932 and later city directories. In 1950, Actor Nick Stewart and his wife Edna Stewart formed a theatre group that performed in several other venues. They took over the Metro in 1965 and renamed it the Ebony Showcase, the first Black-owned legit theatre in Los Angeles. The mission was to allow black actors to perform outside the usual media stereotypes. The Stewarts took their life's earnings to create and maintain the Ebony for 50 years.

The ESTCAC provided theatrical and cultural performance opportunities that would be open to everyone. People of all races were welcomed there. Over the years, the Ebony played to patrons such as Sammy Davis Jr., Etta James, and Eric Clapton. In 1998, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency seized the theatre and adjoining parcels via eminent domain. While initially promising to spare the theatre, the CRA demolished it one day without notice, claiming it was necessary due to structural instability. The Stewarts did not end up producing shows in the new building.

The city-owned Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, a complex designed by FSY Architects, is now on the site. The tenant is Ebony Repertory Theatre. The building includes a 399-seat theatre, a rehearsal hall, and several currently unused retail spaces. Holden was the city councilman for the area when the demolition of the earlier buildings.

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