For more than four decades, Vanguard has presented highly regarded serious drama, comedies, big hit Broadway musicals, dance concerts- including modern, flamenco and Japanese genres, and numerous original plays, revues and musicals.
Vanguard was the inspiration of Mikel Taxer and for many years he was its artistic director. Raised in Los Angeles by a mother working at M-G-M, lured by the LA-Hollywood siren call to show business it is not surprising that Mikel entered UCLA for an intensive curriculum of theatre arts and dance choreography. During a college year, he had the opportunity to dance with Marge and Gower Champion. In later years he attended Martha Graham dance workshops in New York.
After graduating from UCLA, a life-changing decision steered Mikel to the San Francisco Theological Seminary for training as a Presbyterian pastor. It was there that he and two fellow students created the first version of Vanguard, dedicated to presenting drama on campus and in churches and civic group gatherings in the Bay area.
In the early 60s, once he was installed as assistant pastor of Westminster Church, Mikel gathered an enthusiastic cadre of the youth into the first phase of Vanguard in San Diego. He directed young casts in one-act plays and formed both youth and women’s modern dance classes. Adult full-length plays soon followed, staged arena style in the large fellowship hall.
Audience enthusiasm for Vanguard grew rapidly and led to a community fund drive to create Westminster Theater: a thrust stage with stadium seating on three sides, modern light and sound systems, a fine hardwood floor, a mirrored wall, a light and sound booth and an attractive lobby.