The Lobero has always held a special place in Sylvia Weller’s heart. “Just to walk into this little jewel box of a theatre felt so special to me,” she explains. “It has a tremendous mystique.” She spent a dozen years on the Lobero Board, through some of the most financially trying times in the theatre’s history.
Born in Rhode Island, Sylvia’s love for the theatre started early as she watched her mother, an amateur actress, perform on stage. After high school, Sylvia attended Katherine Gibbs, a respected secretarial school on the East Coast. “During the war you could get a job anywhere if you had the certificate,” she remembers. “So I went to New York where they had a college and told them I was interested in the theatre.”
She was sent to interview at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Carnegie Hall. At that time, the World War II veterans were returning in droves and eligible under the GI Bill to attend any college of their choice. Some of her new colleagues, Jason Robards, Don Murray, and Tom Poston went on to careers in theatre and film and were part of the stock company that Sylvia joined as business manager and public relations director. “I guess they thought I was the most square character of the bunch,” she says with a wry smile. “I was supposed to be the liaison to the conservative town folk.”
In New York, she also watched Broadway performances by some of the greatest actors of the time—Julie Harris, Marion Brando, and Katharine Cornell. “I saw everything because you could buy ‘standing room’ back then,” she remembers.
In 1950, Sylvia married Paul Brickley, a physician at the Mayo Clinic. They had two children, Elizabeth and Mark, and eventually moved to Santa Barbara. Paul died when the children were still school-aged. Sylvia returned to college at UCSB and earned an English degree.
Soon thereafter, needing to support her family, Sylvia was approached by Arthur Brownfield, head of one of Montecito’s first real estate offices, who talked her into becoming a real estate agent. “We had a retired senator, a retired rear admiral, a Yale graduate with a degree in poetics, a few dynamic women, and a world-class designer in that office,” she reminisces fondly. “It was an amazing group of people. A brain trust…and a fun trust!”
One of the early women in the business, Sylvia went on to have a successful career in real estate. In 1990, she married LeRoy Weller and spent the last decade traveling extensively until Roy passed away in 2000. “The only places I haven’t seen are Australia and China,” she says. “My memories traveling with Roy are some of my fondest.”
Other fond memories are of Lobero performances. “I will never forget Dame Judith Anderson,” she recalls vividly “It was just a year before she died. She was playing the nurse to Medea in the Greek tragedy by Euripedes. It was the scene where she realizes her mistress is going to murder her children, and Dame Anderson, in her nineties, gets down on her knees, grasping her gown and beseeching her to spare their lives. It was terribly powerful.”
In 1980, Gloria Forsythe invited her onto the Lobero Board. At the time, the Lobero was living hand to mouth. “I remember one time on the board when we were about to go broke, they called an emergency meeting,” she relates. “It was a dark room, a dark mood, and all of a sudden one member stood up-I thought he was going to cry-and said that he had received that morning an anonymous donation for $50,000. It was a miracle—absolutely extraordinary.”
She relished her twelve years on the board, working with friends like Julia Bates, Otis Wickenhaeuser, and Robert Clarke. Today, she is thrilled to see the Lobero thriving, and is grateful to the “jewel box” on the corner of Anacapa and Canon Perdido for such wonderful memories.