Howard T. Mango says he thought he was being a theatrical entrepreneur, not a philanthropist, when he helped launch the Pacific Coast Civic Light Opera, based at Golden West College.
Now Mango, a Newport Beach audiologist, has sued the musical-theater company and its executive director, Golden West dean David F. Anthony, for allegedly defrauding him of his investment and of his rights as an owner.
Mango has acted in musicals on the local community theater scene for nearly 25 years. In the suit filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, he contends that Anthony, Golden West College's dean of Fine and Performing Arts, enlisted him to help start the PCCLO in October 1997, with an oral promise that Mango would be a co-owner, and that the company would be "separate and distinct" from Golden West College.
In its inaugural season, the PCCLO staged three productions on the Huntington Beach campus in its 340-seat Mainstage. But last November, according to the suit, Anthony surprised Mango by pronouncing the theater company dissolved, then "ignored or rebuffed" Mango when he asked for a refund of the $66,400 he had contributed to the PCCLO.
The suit alleges misrepresentation and breach of oral contract, and seeks punitive damages along with repayment of the money Mango contributed--including $37,000 to buy 1,400 seats removed from Anaheim Stadium during its refurbishment, for use in a planned renovation and expansion of GWC's outdoor amphitheater as a site for PCCLO productions and other college events. Also named as a defendant is the Golden West College Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the college under which the theater company has been organized.
Anthony said Thursday that he was unaware of the suit until called for comment. "I'm very surprised and shocked by this," he said. He declined further comment, except to say that "I'm sure we will have some highly accurate information" to counter Mango's version of events.
In an interview Thursday, Mango said he had been hoping to launch a theater company with bigger ambitions than a typical community theater. He said Anthony's initial proposal interested him because "the idea was to take community theater to the next level of professional civic light opera."
Mango had experience in running community theater, having helped found and operate the Regional Repertory Theatre, a nonprofit company that staged community musicals in Yorba Linda from 1984 to 1987.
He said it was "unfortunate" that his involvement with the PCCLO led to his suit, "but [the falling out] might turn out to be a good thing, in that it prompted some things that may turn out to be bigger and better."
Mango said he and others are now putting together a company that aims to begin this summer with "a major production with a major star in a major venue in the Los Angeles-Orange County area."