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Arts & Celebrity in Laguna Beach

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Image Credit: Michael A./Yelp

Often people who are staying in Laguna Beach are vacationing or otherwise interested in area arts events. In part because we are close to Hollywood (just 59 miles), sometimes there is a blend of arts and celebrity. For instance, Rita Rudner recently played the Laguna Playhouse – a historic theater that you really don’t want to miss on your trip.

  • Laguna Beach: frequent nexus of arts and celebrity
  • Arts with history in Laguna Beach today: Laguna Playhouse
  • Rita Rudner’s recent playhouse performance
  • Staying in Laguna Beach


Laguna Beach: frequent nexus of arts and celebrity

If you are thinking about a trip to Laguna Beach, you may not know that arts and celebrity often meet here. Norman St. Clair arrived in 1903, according to the Laguna Beach Historical Society. Many other painters followed him, including Edgar Payne, Frank Cuprien, and William Wendt. It became known as an art colony.

In fact, to this day, not only does Laguna Beach support an active theater but an art museum that is passionate specifically about art produced nearby. “Unlike any other museum in the state, it collects California art and only California art,” the Laguna Art Museum describes itself, “[ranging] across all periods and styles, nineteenth-century to present-day.”

Beyond that strong artistic focus, Laguna Beach also became a center for film because of its proximity to all the studios and actors in Hollywood. False Colors was filmed in the city in 1914. Robinson Crusoe followed, as did two “Captain” movies, Captain January (starring Shirley Temple, 1936), and Captain Blood (Errol Flynn, 1935). Other actors who did movies in Laguna Beach include Betty Davis, Mary Pickford, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Harold Lloyd, and Rudolph Valentino. More recently, a reality show called Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County starred local teenagers and aired in 2004.

Arts with history in Laguna Beach today: Laguna Playhouse

If you are looking for some great local entertainment in Laguna Beach, one of the best places you can visit is the Laguna Playhouse, a theater that has been in operation since 1920. It sits just a short walk away from the Pacific Ocean, about 10 minutes. Today, the Laguna Playhouse is open the whole year, featuring plays, musicals and even standup comedy. However, the real draw of this playhouse is its rich history. “Laguna Playhouse is one of the oldest continuously operating, not-for-profit theatres on the West Coast,” the theater explains.

With Hollywood so close, the playhouse eventually transitioned from a community playhouse to an equity theater – which essentially means it’s union-protected and actors take it more seriously. As such, the playhouse is part of the League of Resident Theatres. Film and theater stars like to visit Laguna Beach because it offers amazing beaches, award-winning restaurants, and a generally artistic culture in close proximity to the playhouse. Those actors have included Ed Asner, Bette Davis, Harrison Ford, Val Kilmer, Teri Ralston, Linda Purl, and Sally Struthers.

Beyond theater, the Laguna Playhouse is involved in various other festivals and events year-round, including the Laguna Dance Festival, Laguna Concert Band, and Laguna Beach Music Festival.

Rita Rudner’s recent playhouse performance

Comedian Rita Rudner, who actually has the longest-running solo comedy show in Las Vegas history, performed at the Laguna Playhouse in January. “I love coming back to Laguna because I’m friends with everyone here, so it’s like coming home,” she said. “This is my first time I’ve ever done a two-headed play, and working with Charlie has been a dream.”

Regarding feeling like home, actually Rudner does have a house right down the road, seven miles away in Monarch Beach, where she lives with her husband and daughter Molly. However, she spends a substantial amount of time in Las Vegas of course, where she also holds nine titles as the official Las Vegas Comedian of the Year.

In this play, the US premiere of a romantic comedy called Act 3, she acts opposite Emmy-winner Charles Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy is well-known for his role as Maxwell Sheffield in CBS’s The Nanny.

The play was directed by Martin Bergman, Rudner’s husband. It’s fitting that the play was done in partnership between Rita and her husband because the two-person show is an interaction between a couple who have been married for decades.

Rudner and Shaughnessy’s characters were called He and She, basically an effort to explore the age-old conversation of the differences between men and women.

Shaughnessy was excited about this chance to partner with Rudner. “We’ve rushed past each other on several occasions, so it’s a pinnacle time of our careers to finally work together,” he said. “Being here in Laguna and doing a play this fun with each other is really why we do this.”

Rudner had actually been on the Laguna stage for New Year’s Eve with Let’s Party Like It’s 2016. She regularly performs at the playhouse. She was actually in another play directed by Bergman, Tickled Pink (based on her bestselling novel) in 2012.

Staying in Laguna Beach

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