Residents don’t trust City Hall. Developers threaten the Santa Monica way of life. Election politics are thrust into the limelight and a new political movement springs to life. It’s a familiar setting, but this isn’t the story of today. This is the story of Santa Monica’s past and the fight to save the Pier in the 1970’s.

“Save the Pier!” a new, free, one-hour play will bring to life the many colorful characters that were involved in the fight to save the Santa Monica Pier on Oct. 16, 17 and 18.

According to those involved, the true story of the fight to save the Pier revolves around the two major groups, working independently, to rally the citizens to stop a city council proposal that would have demolished the Pier and replaced it with a floating hotel/convention center following a devastating winter storm.

Both groups had their share of interesting people such as Jack Sikking the political mastermind for the group based in Al’s Kitchen; a man that walked away from his life in Hollywood managing The Troubadour to manage Al’s and engaged everyone in the restaurant to join the battle.

The other group was a team of Pier merchants with spunky Diana Cherman as their visible leader creating petitions and confronting the city council at their meetings.

Written, produced and directed by Santa Monicans – the show combines subject and setting for a uniquely Santa Monica experience by staging the actual performance on the end of the Pier.

“The venue is unusual, and I’m staging it kind of like Greek theater,” said director Paul Sand. “With people sitting on the steps, the ocean in back of the play, it’s picturesque, a very unusual and attractive venue.”

Producer Carolyn Yost said having a work written by a local, directed by a local and performed actually on the Pier creates a special energy.

“It’s a play about the Pier situated at the end of the Pier and it just creates this whole atmosphere,” she said. “You’re interacting with the audience, talking about the Pier while you’re on the Pier and to me, that just makes it unique.”

Sand, a Tony Award-winning actor with an extensive television and film biography, said while the subject matter is political, the play has themes that will resonate and entertain even if the audience isn’t familiar with the details of the Pier’s history.

“I like the idea that bumper car people and candy cane people and people that work in the caf√© can beat City Hall if something kind of unjust is going on,” he said. “This is what these people did, they got together, did the petition thing during the election season and they outsmarted the greedy people and that’s always fun.”

Yost said there’s something inspiring about the underdog story that residents will find rousing regardless of their prior knowledge or interest, particularly as the nation readies for an election in 2016.

“We have an election year coming up and it’s important to get involved in your community and you can make a difference, and that’s the message of the play,” she said. “These people rallied the talent they had, fought City Hall, and they won. That’s a lesson about the whole country and what’s coming next year…”

Jim Harris, deputy director of the Santa Monica Pier, wrote the play. Harris has had a longstanding fascination with the history of the Pier and literally wrote the book on the issue (“Santa Monica Pier: A Century on the Last Great Pleasure Pier”). It took him years to work the play into its current form and credited the support of those around him for bringing it to life.

“I was talking to Carolyn about the play and she said it was something we had to do. She just took the ball and ran with it,” he said. “Paul has been great and has brought a group of young actors that is really exciting.”

Harris said Sand assigned him a role in the play that was not part of the original plan. According to Harris, he wrote the narrator role based on an old fisherman known for wandering the pier and telling tall tales, but Sand convinced him to take on the part himself.

“Now I just have to learn the lines,” said Harris.

“Save the Pier!” presented by The Albright, will be staged for three nights, Oct. 16, 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. at the western tip of the Santa Monica Pier. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/SavetheSMpier or contact Yost at savethepier@ca.rr.com.

editor@www.smdp.com

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