There aren’t many churches that have been built to resemble a royal mistress’ dwelling. But that’s how downtown San Jose’s Le Petit Trianon theater began its existence—as a church, with architecture patterned after Madame de Pompadour’s house at Versailles. In its origins, as well as in its current incarnation as a theater and office complex for small arts groups, the Trianon seems unique.

Some of those groups are seeking to showcase both the Trianon and themselves with a free monthly concert series. The latest installment of the [email protected] series takes place Aug. 2 with a concert presented by the South Bay Guitar Society, featuring classical guitarist Steve Lin. Listeners are invited to bring their lunches to the concert.

“One of the things I noted with the guitar society over the years, is that people would come into Le Petit Trianon, look around with wonder, and say ‘why didn’t I know about this place?’ It struck me that there are a lot of people who don’t know about the venue, and therefore don’t know about the activities going on within the venue,” says Tom Ingalz, a member of the South Bay Guitar Society who organized the concert series.

Guitarist Lin focuses on outreach for audiences new to classical guitar. Lin’s program is designed to introduce the breadth of classical guitar. “I’m playing two Bach arrangements, and I’m playing Taiwanese folk music arranged by a friend. There’s also Argentine tangos. It shows off the guitar in different ways, adapting music from old music,” Lin says.

[email protected] launched in May and each month has offered performances by some of the theater’s regular users, who are mostly smaller-budget musical organizations, drawn to the acoustics of the Trianon’s concert hall and its manageable, 340-seat house.

Although the need for visibility among smaller arts groups is ever-present, there’s urgency behind such efforts at the Trianon. The theater has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for a little more than a year. Le Petit Trianon owner Keith Watt says the building is worth $4 million, but he still owes $2.1 million on the mortgage, which he had to refinance not long after the economy bottomed out in 2007. Watt has operated the theater for 30 years.

He’s exploring several different options. Le Petit Trianon has been up for sale since summer 2012, but no buyers have come forward, and Watt expresses the concern that most buyers would be unlikely to keep Le Petit Trianon as a theater. “I guess churches converted into theaters are not a good thing to deal with,” he says, though he jokes this experience may help him find religion again.

[email protected]
Fri, Aug. 2, 12:10-12:50pm. Free.
Le Petit Trianon, 72 N. Fifth St., San Jose.
trianontheatre.com.