Ed Vincent Park is lush with green spaces for picnics, an afternoon read, soccer, football, a fresh basketball court, skate park, swimming pool, and a beautiful amphitheater that has hosted some amazing concerts. We walk the park, run the park, and even entertain games of chicken with the local family of squirrels who make their way onto the walkways and our picnic blankets.
It’s a hardly hidden gem in the community that echoes the song of the old Centinela Valley. However, for the last 15 years, the Inglewood Playhouse laid vacant and unutilized, leaving residents and visitors wondering just what fate had in store for the building that once brought performing arts and culture to the city.
Over the weekend, the Inglewood Playhouse, a venue that seats close to 60 guests, was standing-room-only as the city celebrated the site’s re-opening and introduction of new quality performing arts programming.
Mayor Butts, said, “Everything we do in this city, from here on out, is history now. You’ll be the ones to say, I remember when they opened the playhouse, I remember the first performance that was there. I was there when they turned the corner.”
The restoration of the site was performed by Clark Construction, the construction team who is responsible for renovating the Fabulous Forum.
Mike Bradford of Clark Construction said, “My team was lucky enough to win the renovation of the Forum project and that’s what introduced me to Inglewood, and I’m a huge fan of this city and the growth that you’re experiencing now.
“I went to hear the mayor at his 2013 State of The City Address, and learned that he was the man that was going to make all those plans happen. Then I made the mistake of going to the mayor and saying you know, when we do work (on) a public component, we usually do a service project, that’s why we’re here.
“I said, what would you have me do, and he invited me to this place, and as he said when he opened up, it was in disrepair, again. What he wanted to do here was big and it was bold and I said, oh my gosh. And, at a nice luncheon for the California Preservation awards, the mayor pulled me to the side and said, ‘I promised the city that playhouse, we’ve got to deliver.’ I hope you guys love it, it’s been a labor of love for us.”
Under the direction of playwright and Inglewood resident Brandon Rainey, a group of highly talented young singers, actors and dancers took to the stage to provide guests with a “snapshot” of some of the quality performances the community can expect once programming of the playhouse commences in the coming months.
One of the biggest advocates in the community, who most know for his unyielding love and support for this city and its regeneration is Willie Agee. Even in the days where it may have been difficult to see the beauty that lied within the city’s 9-square mile territory, Agee, remained resilient in his proclamation that we lived in the “Beautiful City of Inglewood!”
As a surprise, Mayor Butts and city staff unveiled the highlight of the afternoon—dedicating the building and renaming it “The Willie Agee Playhouse,” in recognition of the 52-year Inglewood resident and Korean War veteran, for his community service and leadership as Chair of the Inglewood Parks and Recreation Commission.
An elated Agee asked the audience, “Can you guys even come close to knowing how I feel right now? It’s absolutely awesome! These young kids are going to have a place to go, something to do.”
Parks Recreation and Library Services Director, Sabrina Barnes said, “On behalf of the Parks Recreation and Library Services Department, to the mayor and council, Clark Construction, and all of you who have been rallying, and voicing your concerns regarding the playhouse, a heartfelt thank you. We are really pleased to have the doors of the playhouse opened, we are committed to providing you with quality programming, in various ways, so that everyone can enjoy it.”
Mr. Willie Agee was one of our biggest proponents to ensure that this playhouse was opened,” Barnes added.