Theater company settles into historic Sallal Grange

As Valley Center Stage’s performance of “Tiny Beautiful Things” entered its second weekend of shows, it marked its third play of the season and a consistent return to live theater following a year lost to the pandemic.

But the return to performing isn’t the only change this year. Just watching the actors, you couldn’t tell that the whole Sallal Grange building the performers now call home, including the stage beneath them, was torn down and built back up again over a long 9-month mostly volunteer-run renovation.

This month marks just over a year since that renovation began and Center Stage signed a deal with the Sallal Grange to preserve the historic community building by making it a fully-functioning theater.

“It was actually very awe-inspiring that it all happened and it all came together and we got it done and opened a show this past fall,” said Jim Snyder, a Center Stage member who, alongside Wynter Elwood, led the renovation and worked almost full-time over the build.

About 8 months before the signing of that deal, Center Stage was informed by the owners of the Masonic Lodge — the group’s home since its founding nearly 19 years ago — that with expanding membership, they wanted to use the full facility, leaving them without a stage.

The Grange, which had been going through declining membership and not possibly unable to meet their expenses, agreed to host Center Stage and allow them to renovate the space, while using the rent to preserve the building.

The Grange is America’s oldest farm-based fraternal organization that advocates for rural citizens, through community involvement and legislation. The historic Sallal Grange building was chartered in September 1930 to represent the towns of North Bend, Meadowbrook and Snoqualmie.

Amid declining membership, Sallal Grange relinquished its charter in 2007, but it was rejuvenated in 2010 and remains active today — supporting live music, food banks, the homeless shelter and Project Linus, among others.

The renovation began January 2021 and included dismantling everything at the old space and bringing it to the Grange, alongside redoing the ceiling, insulation, carpeting and electrical.

The group also redid the kitchen, spread gravel in the parking lot, added a wheelchair ramp and constructed storage rooms for props, costumes and equipment. The major components of the project finished in September, just a month before the group’s first play of the 2021-22 season.

More updates are possible in the future, Snyder said, including paving the parking lot and adding an outside stage.

“[The renovation] wasn’t as simple as a new coat of paint, building the stage and some aesthetic touch-ups,” said Rosalind Chaffee, a Center Stage spokesperson. “This was a major overhaul with HGTV style ‘Oh no that whole thing is rotted through and now we have to rebuild the roof’ moments.”

Being at the Grange has been a significant change, Snyder said, with one of the biggest being the group can build sets inside, rather than having to carry them up the steep 22-steps or fire escape at the Mason building.

‘It’s wonderful to have a space where we’re the main tenant,” he said. “We have a room to work on things and get things ready for show while people can be rehearsing in the lobby or working in the light and sound booth in the back.”

The whole project was a collaborative effort. On the weekdays, Snyder said there were usually between 3 to 5 volunteers fixing up the site, but nearly 20-25 every weekend. The group also received support from LakeSide Industries, which donated concrete, and North Bend Landscaping, which donated gravel, alongside support from the city and county council.

“It was not only a huge volunteer effort from Valley Center Stage, but the whole community has been outstanding,” Snyder said. “We’ve just had tremendous support.”

Valley Center Stage raises the ceiling during renovations at at Sallal Grange. Photo Courtesy of Valley Center Stage.

Valley Center Stage raises the ceiling during renovations at at Sallal Grange. Photo Courtesy of Valley Center Stage.

Outside construction at Sallal Grange. Photo courtesy of Valley Center Stage.

Outside construction at Sallal Grange. Photo courtesy of Valley Center Stage.