Musart Theatre


1320 S. Figueroa St.       | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90015

Opened: It opened as the Little Theatre on January 26, 1913.

It was also known in its early days as the Egan Theatre and the Egan Little Theatre after it became the home for The Egan School, operated by drama teacher Frank C. Egan. It didn't become the Musart until 1933.

In addition to the theatre, the building also had other studio spaces for rent.

Architects: Morgan, Walls & Morgan


A drawing by the architects of the proposed
Little Theatre. Thanks to Birthe Lauchengco
 for sending it our way.
full size view

The drawing appeared in the 1913 Los Angeles Architectural Club Exhibition Catalog. It's included in a fascinating Southern California Architectural History post from 2012 by John Crosse that, in addition to discussing Frank C. Egan and the Little Theatre, involves a number of other performance buildings as well as Rudolf Schindler, Edward Weston and many other interesting personages. 

Seating: 334

We see mentions of it in reviews as early as 1914. Evidently things weren't going well.  The California Outlook had an article in 1914 about Frank C. Egan reviving the fortunes of the sinking Little Theatre which had opened the previous season. 

Mr. Egan was evidently an acting teacher of some note. His Egan School of Drama merged in 1909 with the Morosco School which had earlier been founded by Oliver Morosco and Hobart Bosworth. By 1911 the Morosco name had been dropped and it became just the "The Egan School." In 1912 a music department had also been added.

Before moving to studios in the Little Theatre building, Egan's school was in the Majestic Theatre building. The USC Archives has a c.1915 photo with his signage visible on the building.

Although Mr. Egan presented many legit shows at the theatre, one early idea after his taking over the venue was to turn it into a film house. In the summer of 1914 the school was taking a break and movies were offered. John Crosse reports that the venue is mentioned in an "In the Theater Foyers" item in the August 7, 1914 L.A. Times.

Thanks to Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle for finding the article in the August 29, 1914 issue of Motion Picture News that detailed the shift:

"Luxurious 'Theatre Intime' Goes to Pictures

Little Theatre, Los Angeles, Designed For Two Dollar
Attractions, Will Be Home of High-Class Features

Special to The Motion Picture News

Los Angeles, August 17.

The Little Theatre, 1324 South Figueroa street, Los Angeles, built and equipped for high-class dramatic productions by a selected company, which was opened January 26 last and continued until March 15, with an admission price of two dollars for any seat in the house, is now to become the home of motion pictures and will be under the management of Frank Egan, head of the Egan School of Music, Drama and Art, located in the theatre building.

This theatre is situated near a very choice residence and apartment house district, and it will be the policy to run only feature pictures of five, six or more reels. But one performance will be given each evening at eight o'clock with Matinees on Saturday and Sunday. A string quartette will furnish the music. The opening is now dated for Saturday, August 8. It is probable that one or two acts of good vaudeville will be added later.  The admission fees will be twn cents for children, adults twenty cents and loge seats thirty cents.

This is without a doubt the most elaborately furnished theatre west of Chicago. The entire basement under the building is furnished for ladies' and gentlemen's parlors and rest rooms, the seats are of an expensive and very comfortable type, while the draperies, hangings and decorations are equal to any in the West. It was the intention of the builders to make this an exclusive theatre for the better dramas, and the enterprise was backed by more than two hundred stockholders, each owning the same amount of stock. There are but 334 seats.    J.C. Jessen."


Thanks, Cezar. For other interesting material from his collection visit his Theatre Talks blogTheatre Talks website and visit the Brooklyn Theatre Index page on Facebook.

It's unknown how long the film programming ran at the theatre. Perhaps just that one summer.

The theatre is in the 1914, 1915 and 1916 city directories as the Little Theatre. The 1914 address is listed as 1322 S. Figueroa. In the 1923 directory it's the Egan Theatre, 1318-24 S. Figueroa.

John Crosse reports that Aline Barnsdall leased the Little Theatre for 6 months for the 1916-1917 season of her Players Producing Company. The shows are listed in an issue of Theatre Arts that's on Google Books. She engaged Norman Bel Geddes to design the sets and signed Richard Ordynski to a ten-week contract to direct the plays.


The program cover designed by Norman Bel Geddes for
the Little Theatre season of 1916-1917. Thanks to John Crosse,
who includes it in his 2012 Southern California Architectural History
post where the Players Producing Co. season is discussed, along
with many other theatrical topics.

full size view

In 1920 Egan was listed in the book "Where and How to Sell Manuscripts" as being in the market for plays for his Little Theatre.  He was actively producing at least into the 1921-22 season.

It was called the Egan Theatre in 1928. They were advertising the venue as  "The House of New Plays" in their L.A. Times ads using "Figueroa and Pico" to describe their location.



A ticket for the Egan in 1931. Thanks to Sean
 Ault for spotting it and sending it our way. 
 full size view


Becoming the Musart in the 30s:

The theatre was renamed the Musart  in 1933 according to a Wikipedia article on Actress Louise Glaum who had appeared there (see note #20).  It was later used for a number of WPA Federal Theatre Project productions. It's in the 1936 city directory under the Musart name.



A poster for the 1936 production
of "The Devil Passes."
full size view



The Federal Theatre Project Materials Collection
at George Mason University has a big collection of
 posters and other memorabilia, all searchable by city
 or theatre name. This poster for "Wisdom Tooth" from
1937 at the Musart Theatre is one of their holdings.
full size view | data page

Also in the GMU collection:
| "Mary Stuart" --possibly 1936  |  "Roadside" - 1938  |


The Library of Congress collection includes
this poster for the WPA Federal Theatre Project
 production of "Roadside" at the Musart Theatre
sometime between 1936 and 1941. 
full size view





A look at the Musart in March 1949.

photo: Saxon Sitka collection

That's actor Emil Sitka posing with
displays for the play "The Viper's Fang."



Another 1949 view. 

photo: Saxon Sitka collection

In the photo are Emil Sitka, Symona
Boniface and Jack Fedder.



Emil Sitka and the play's author, Symona
Boniface in front of the Musart in 1949.

photo: Saxon Sitka collection


Saxon Sitka's father, Emil Sitka appeared in "The Viper's Fang,
or The Virgin's Dilemma" by Symona Boniface at the Musart
in March 1949.

For more on the production and Mr. Sitka see the extensive
page about "The Viper" on EmilSitka.com as well many other
pages on the site detailing his film and television work.
Emil Sitka was known as "The Fourth Stooge" for his
 extensive film work with the Three Stooges.

Thanks, Saxon!




More WPA Federal Theatre Project shows:



A poster for "Twilight of the Theatre" in
 the Library of Congress collection. The
show played the Musart  in 1942.
full size view




A Library of Congress collection
poster for "Wild Birds," running
sometime between 1936 and 1941.
full size view

The one above says opens August 19.
There's also an "Opens August 12" version.
I guess they weren't ready.

Also in the Library of Congress collection:
  | "Last Night of Don Juan" - c.1936-41 |
 | "The Devil Passes" - 1936 - 2nd version |
|  "Uncle Vanya" - 1936  |  "Class of '29" - 1936 |
 | "Help Yourself" - 1937 | "The Treasure" c.1936-41 |

The Musart in the 40s:

In 1941 John Harvey and Rae Whitney appeared at the Musart in the comedy farce "Getting Gertie's Garter." Playwright John P. Cousin, formerly spelled Cussen, managed the theatre in the early 40s. His play "Two in A Bed" ran there in 1944. His grandson, Scott Brady, has a letter from the playwright's father commenting on the performance.


A matchbook from the 1944 run of "Two in a Bed"
by John Cousin. It's in Eric's Lynxwiler's delightful
 Paper Ephemera collection on Flickr. Thanks to
Scott Brady for spotting it.

Billboard ran a review of the play "Declaration" opening in 1948. The theatre was still running in 1949.  Emil Sitka appeared in March 1949 for a run of "The Viper's Fang," a melodrama by Simona Boniface.


Status: 

Demolished. The closing date of the theatre is unknown. If you know anything more about the Musart, please get in touch.

The location, on the east side of Figueroa between Pico and Venice Boulevards, is across the street from the L.A. Convention Center.  The theatre's site, just south of Cameron Lane, is now part of a huge parking lot.


More Information: 

Wikipedia's story on John Harvey mentions his 1941 work at the Musart.

One of the building's tenants beginning in the 30s (and lasting into the 50s) was the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Arts. Earlier, they had been in the Walker Building, home of the theatre called the Grand (as well as going by a dozen other names during its interesting history).  The organization, later merging with the Chouinard Art Institute (in 1961) and becoming CalArts, is mentioned on page 46 of "Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture, 1880-1940," on Google Books.


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