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Desert Rose Playhouse, shuttered by pandemic, reopens in former Zelda’s nightclub

You never know where you'll be a year from now.

That's the phrase Robbie Wayne and his fiancé Mathew McLean have come to live by.

This time last year, they were closing down the Desert Rose Playhouse, a small blackbox theater in Rancho Mirage – one of the first local production companies to shutter.

They canceled performances, refunded tickets, and lost tens of thousands of dollars.

"We went for about 3 months without being able to open – paying full rent and no revenue," Wayne said. "We were literally broke! And we thought, like everybody else. we were just going to be a victim of this whole Covid thing."

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With their dreams in jeopardy and the bills piling up came a sign.

"On the verge of what we thought was the darkest time of our life, we saw a for lease sign here at the old Zelda's nightclub," Wayne said.

In 2019, the former downtown Palm Springs nightclub of 43 years was forced to close amid security concerns after multiple violent crimes including a deadly shooting.

"We thought that was crazy because we had absolutely no money, and how were we going to rent a nightclub in downtown Palm Springs?" Wayne asked.

Within a week, they'd crowdfunded enough money to sign the lease – and then the real work began.

"It took a lot of insanity," McLean said. "The liquor was still on the walls; the bar stools were all here; everything was just sitting here, frozen in time."

And restoring the space wasn't the only challenge – the pandemic posed its own set of hurdles. "A lot of cleaning, a lot of volunteers, and we had to do it on skeletal crews and on shifts so we could socially distance," McLean said.

Out of the ashes of the pandemic rose a playhouse. "This is not just a community theater, but this is the community’s theater – so it's everybody's place," Wayne said.

And through it all comes a lesson about the strength that can come from some neighborly support. "No guts, no glory," McLean said. "And never underestimate the power of the community."

When one curtain closes, another one opens – and you never know where you'll be in a year.

Coronavirus / Local News / News Headlines / Top Stories / Video

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.


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