‘Helen is our magic’

Long Beach Shakespeare Company renames theater after late artistic director Helen Borgers


Photo by Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune

Pictured is the façade of the newly renamed Helen Borgers Theatre at 4250 Atlantic Ave., home of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company, during the theater’s Oct. 27 renaming ceremony 

After her untimely death last year, the Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC) has renamed its venue in honor of Helen Borgers, its founding artistic director.

File photo
Helen Borgers

Previously called the Richard Goad Theatre (after an early donor), LBSC commemorated its new signage during the early evening of Oct. 27 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the theater before a crowd of about 30 supporters. 

“Every theater needs a little magic,” LBSC Producer Dana Leach said during the ceremony. “It’s how all the impossible somehow becomes possible. Helen is our magic.”

Leach said that the name change took about five months to realize, including raising donations to restructure the façade to accommodate the new sign, which now reads, “Home of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company: Helen Borgers Theatre.” There is also a new mini sign perpendicular to the wall marking the theater from the sidewalk. 

Photo by Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
Brando Cutts (left), artistic director of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company, addresses supporters in front of the company’s theater at 4250 Atlantic Ave. during a ceremony on Oct. 27, when officials officially renamed the site the Helen Borgers Theatre

“Our mission is to promote literacy by entertaining and inspiring our audiences with the power of the classics,” Leach told the crowd. “That is our foundation. Our patrons, donors and volunteers– you are the walls that hold us together and give us a place to make the classics come alive.”

Leach also thanked the theater’s board of directors, community supporters, 8th District Councilmember Austin and Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association.
“You are the roots that protects us,” she said.

The evening also marked LBSC’s 17th annual performance of Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” radio play, which was the first production Borgers had staged at the theater on Halloween night in 2002, Leach said.

“Helen’s special brand of magic has kept this theater going forward through a theater fire and near financial collapses,” she said. “Helen pushed on. […] It’s up to us to keep this foundation intact, the walls strong and the roots enduring so Helen’s magic and vision will remain to inspire and teach for years to come.”

Austin also presented LBSC a certificate recognizing the theater’s renaming. 

Photo by Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
Al Austin (fourth from left), Long Beach 8th-district councilmember, presented a certificate to the Long Beach Shakespeare Company recognizing the renaming of its venue to the Helen Borgers Theatre during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 27. Also pictured: Artistic Director Brando Cutts (holding ceremonial scissors); members of Borgers’s family; and the theater’s board of directors.

“This is a treasure in the 8th District,” Austin said of the theater. “We would like to distinguish ourselves as a community that supports […] every aspect of the arts.”

Recently-named LBSC Artistic Director Brando Cutts recognized the services of several board members in attendance, as well as members of Borgers’s family, including her partner, brother and sister-in-law. 

“This all started with a little girl (Borgers) who saw some Shakespeare and thought, ‘I need to bring that to my world,’” Cutts said. “It’s about serving our community and bringing to it what we feel will make it better. […] That was Helen’s vision.”

At dusk, LBSC lit up the new sign while playing a recording of Borgers’s voice that has continued to welcome audiences to shows. However, Leach told the Signal Tribune that a professional post-audio engineer recently updated the announcement. 

“Welcome to the Helen Borgers Theatre,” the recording states. “Our performance is about to begin.”