The Scripps Ranch Theatre (SRT) celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Today it is a recognized professional theater, but it has not always been that way.

Imagine having to step over theatrical props and scenery every time you walk through your garage or your living room! This is what members of the Scripps Ranch Theatre were doing in 1978 when the theater was born. With no permanent venue for performances or storage, one production was even held in a shopping center parking lot!

Another production, held on the basketball court of the Scripps Ranch Swim and Racquet Club, had a rabbit steal the show by hopping on stage, being caught and placed in a prop basket, and jumping out again. In 1992 wildlife was eliminated from the stage when the theater found its current home in the Legler Benbough Theatre on the Alliant International University campus.

In my last message to subscribers, I wrote, "You have watched as we dragged our theater wagon from site to site, setting up wherever we could--storefronts and parking lots. You have watched the formation of a little theater that always strived, to quote Buzz Lightyear, `To infinity and beyond.' And now you are witnessing a transition to a higher plane as we advance professionally. Our reputation in the greater San Diego theater circle is growing exponentially, and despite our low profile, we cannot hide our light under a bushel."

Starting out as a community theater is a long tradition in San Diego. The Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse both started this way. "We now pay our artists, and that has resulted in attracting some of the finest talent in San Diego," said Jill Drexler, artistic director. "Their pay is very modest, but it sets us apart from all other theaters on the I-15 corridor."

Another sign of growth is the addition of a fifth production this season. "This will place a greater demand on all of our resources, but we are certain that we can meet the challenge," said Allan Salkin, producing director. Speaking of resources, Joe Casali, who has served as director of volunteers, points out that the impressive sets are built by volunteers on weekends, and they always need more help! Joe also says that the SRT needs volunteers for several other areas.

This season opened to critical acclaim. The Dining Room was praised as a "step up in class." Our next production, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, is by Alfred Uhry, the author of Driving Miss Daisy. It is a funny, heartwarming story of a Jewish family living in the deep south in 1939 with a Christmas tree in their living room. It opens Friday, Nov. 7, and runs until Saturday, Dec. 6.

The third play of this season is a Pulitzer Prize winner. "Patron surveys indicate a desire for more variety," said Judy Splitgerber. "To meet this need, we have scheduled The Shadow Box. It is an achingly beautiful story, an incredible work of art." Judy is the voice of the theater. It is Judy who lends a personal touch to every reservation.

The fourth play is a delightful romantic comedy, All This And Moonlight, by Charles R. Johnson. The season ends with that master of American comedy, Neil Simon. His Chapter Two is the tale of two not-so-young lovers and their struggle to commit or not commit.

So where do we go from here? I envision a theater that one day will serve all ages, all cultures, and all economic groups. A theater that will provide sustenance for artist and audience alike. A theater that will tickle your funny bone, tug at your heart, massage your mind, challenge your values, and move you to places you have never been. A theater that will provide a thrilling, breathtaking, exhilarating experience.

Scripps Ranch is indeed fortunate and unique to have this cultural asset in our community. For tickets and information about Scripps Ranch Theatre, including dates for our productions, please call 578-7728 or visit our website at []. We would also love to hear from you if you would like to volunteer with the SRT.

Jim Caputo, SRT Executive Director

[Editor's note: In addition to his role with the SRT, Jim is an award winning playwright.]