November 8 (Saturday), 10:00 AM – “A conversation with Don Toner at the Austin Playhouse” – Don Toner, Director, Austin Playhouse, Highland Mall; Contact: Diane Brewer
Charismatic Austin Playhouse founder and Producing Artistic Director Don Toner held 49 branch members and guests in the palm of his hand on Saturday, November 8, 2014. Standing under stage lights, Don shared his challenges and joys in bringing quality professional theatre to Austin, Texas.
Mr. Toner arrived in Austin to manage Live Oak Theatre during the mid-Eighties. He was later moved to invest time and capital in the renovation of the State Theatre adjoining the Paramount on Congress. That venue became quite successful and Toner would have been happy to stay there, but the property owners decided to bring in a new staff, leaving Don and Company to develop the successful Austin Playhouse at Penn Field, 13 years ago. Again, the venue met with much success commercially and artistically. But again, Don was forced to leave due to an extravagant rise in his rent. He could not remain there and continue running a quality theatre.
Dreaming of a permanent home, Toner negotiated a spot in the Mueller Development, developed plans for a cultural center, theatre, and restaurant, but funding and slow movement by the city’s approval process made it difficult. During that two year waiting period, Austin Playhouse produced two full seasons of theatre in a tent!
The Playhouse’s current home is a perfect addition to Austin’s cultural scene. Austin Playhouse is positioned to partner with Austin Community College at Highland Mall. ACC and Austin Playhouse are currently developing a plan to allow Toner to have a ground floor entrance, new lavatories to serve his actors and audience, and a marquee. He is already collaborating on student productions with ACC.