Santa Monica Public Theatre, founded by Tony Award-winning actor and long-time Santa Monica resident Paul Sand, brings a unique and extraordinary theatrical experience to an equally unique and extraordinary venue with the premiere of the new stage play “An Illegal Start” inside the national landmark Merry-Go-Round Building on the Santa Monica Pier. “An Illegal Start” will debut on May 5, 6, 11, 12 & 13, 2017 at 8 p.m., and tickets are $25 and available on Eventbrite and at

The play is set in 1980’s rural western Colorado, where an old merry go-round in a defunct amusement park becomes refuge for two young men after a near-fatal accident, catapulting an unlikely friendship into an intimately intertwined journey through the trials of two starkly different life paths. Written by Author and Santa Monica Pier Historian James Harris, “An Illegal Start” was originally conceived for performance on the traditional stage with a very basic set consisting of little more than a telephone pole. Harris adapted the play specifically to be performed in the Santa Monica Pier Merry-Go-Round Building (formally named the Looff Hippodrome) after Sand’s, suggestion. Sand lived above the merry-go-round after he graduated from high school, and his parents met at a dance on the Pier.

“The main job of the director is to know what the play is truly about, I mean truly,” said Paul Sand. “I felt the power of this story lay in the simple secret nut – the less obvious – the reason for Jim to be moved enough to want to sit down and write this story in the first place. Knowing this, I felt that the Merry Go Round was the perfect setting to help tell the story – the story that is ‘An Illegal Start.'”

The Santa Monica Pier’s Merry-Go-Round Building celebrated its 100th anniversary in June 2016. It was inducted into the National Registry of Historic Places in 1987 and has become a favorite setting for private parties and events. “An Illegal Start” will be the first time that the building has been used for live theatre.

Paul Sand has had a long and impressive career on stage as well as in film and television. His work on Broadway in the 1970’s earned him two Drama Desk Awards and a Tony Award. In 2013 he conceived of, produced and directed Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel in a cozy little room on the west end of the Santa Monica Pier, an experience that inspired him to bring extraordinary theatrical experiences to unique venues in the Santa Monica area.

James Harris is also the Deputy Director of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation. He is the author of the book Santa Monica Pier: A Century on the Last Great Pleasure Pier (2009, Angel City Press) and has written several stage plays, including “Save the Pier!,” which is performed annually on the Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Public Theatre was founded in 2016 by Tony Award-winning actor Paul Sand and colleague James Harris, to deliver high quality theatre to the arts-rich community of Santa Monica, both through innovative theatrical productions and through educational outreach programs serving not only those who already have an interest in theatre, but also to those in the community who are not ordinarily exposed to the culture and experience of theatre.

“An Illegal Start” will debut on May 5, 6, 11, 12 & 13, 2017 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

  • Submitted by Rosalind Napoli, Spin Public Relations