The Lost Church of Santa Rosa debuts, again
You might have missed it – the garage space tucked away on the ground floor of The Press Democrat building on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. But gradually and somewhat subtly, a new place of music, performance and magic – yes, magic – materialized there.
The lost church is not strictly new. It had the downside to opening just before the pandemic upset local entertainment. But now, finally, there is a full line going.
One weekday evening last week, Santa Rosa magician Brad Barton asked members of the public to each draw a card from the deck he was holding. All the cards were returned to the deck and Barton addressed a man in the audience:
“Could it be the king of hearts?” Barton said with a chuckle, pulling the man’s card from the deck.
Laughter and gasps permeated the 75-seat, vaudeville-style red theater. “How did he do that?” said one participant.
Another burst into tears during the show, when Barton guessed the attendee’s lifelong dream on the spot, without any clue.
Barton’s magic show was the kind of intimate experience you won’t get in a large stadium or getting lost in a massive crowd, which felt like magic in itself.
The Lost Church, a non-profit arts organization whose mission is to âcreate, maintain and defend venues for live performances,â opened in January 2020 in Santa Rosa. Two months later, they closed.
Finally, with the help of grants, donations from the community and a sympathetic owner, they officially reopened in September and now have events scheduled for November and December.
âThis place is all about privacy, security and magic,â said Josh Windmiller, director of development for The Lost Church. âMagic is created every night here. And I think people are feeling it.
It’s not just a place, but a performing arts space for all art forms – where comedians, musicians, poets, magicians and actors take center stage, Windmiller said. And a wide range of artists are expected to perform in the coming weeks.
Take a seat inside on Saturday, October 30 for an acoustic performance by local rock ‘n’ roll singer John Courage and his band. On November 5, you can hear electronic synthesizers and textures from independent Mediterranean artist Josep Siam and heavy-hearted composer Seth Lael. And Barton will return with his magic show on November 18. Find the complete program on thelostchurch.org/santa-rosa.
âHumans are eclectic,â Windmiller said. âAs a community, we are suffering from a loss of places to play for each other, a place to share stories and songs. There is something for everyone here.
Inside The Lost Church, ivy hangs from candle-style chandeliers and red velvet curtains edged with gold linens against the small stage. The brown walls are covered with framed period photos of acrobats, actors and musicians.
It’s an old-fashioned vaudeville lounge smashup. And like a living room, the place attracts residents who aspire to the conviviality that this small space promotes.
A native of Santa Rosa who moved to New York City at age 17 said the location reminded her of the artistic culture she found in this great city.
âArt is life. We need strangeness. Places like this keep people alive. That makes it interesting, âsaid Crystal Glover, now 51, of Santa Rosa. âBeing here transports me, makes me feel like I’m back in town.
Other participants in Barton’s magic show yearned for a connection after a year and a half of isolation.
âIt’s a dark and difficult time for people; something like that brings some kind of relief, âsaid Hannah Cullen, 34, of Sevastopol. âI’m glad there is a theater like this. The nostalgia for this place is something that people look for too, I think. It reminds people of a time when people weren’t so engrossed in their phones.
Salon at the theater
Before The Lost Church landed in Santa Rosa, it started in a living room, albeit massive. Longtime founders and musicians Brett and Elizabeth Cline started the business in a huge vacant space in their trendy San Francisco Mission District home.
At the time, Brett Cline was writing musicals for the theater and performing them for friends in the living room.
Over time, the musicians began to reach out to the couple for a space to perform. It was then that the Clines decided to turn their space into a place – the first lost church.
Elizabeth Cline, a seamstress, sewed bright red curtains. A friend installed a row of railings from vanity lamps he bought from Home Depot.
Their living room, brimming with wacky art and enough folding chairs to seat 49 people, officially opened in 2011.
But the Clines’ vision was broader than their very large living room. They want every small town in California to have a performing arts space.