North Bend will get its first look at live theater in nearly two years as the Valley Center Stage returns on Oct. 1 with its production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”
“The Mousetrap” is a whodunit-mystery where a woman is murdered during a snowstorm and the killer is trapped among the residents and staff of Monkswell Manor. Known as the world’s longest running play, “The Mousetrap” has run continuously in London since 1952.
“[Christie’s] a fun writer. I think that she kind of keeps the audience on their toes,” said Anden Leo, who plays Christopher Wren. “You get subtle clues, but you really have to be looking close for them to figure out the ending.”
“Mousetrap” will be the theater’s first live play since the pandemic began and first show since the winter, when the group gave virtual performance of “A Christmas Carol.”
“One of the reasons I love doing shows here is it feels like I can give back to a place that’s pretty special to me,” said Chris Clark, a Mount Si High School graduate who will play Detective Sergeant Trotter. “All of these things were gone during the pandemic and now they’re coming back. Coming here, with so many laughs, it’s like of course this is what we were missing.”
Not only is this the theater’s first live play since the pandemic, but it is also the theater’s first time playing at the Sallal Grange. Since 2003, Valley Center Stage has been performing at the North Bend Masonic Hall, but were forced to move during the pandemic. The theater group struck a deal with the owners of the Sallal Grange, agreeing to fix up the nearly 100-year-old building and make it a community space in exchange for converting the space into a new theater.
Since moving into the building in January, cast and crew members have been spending several hours each week fixing up the building and repurposing it into a live theater venue. A week out from production, a white board sits in the corner of the room, listing several last-minute tasks to finish before opening.
“It’s been just a major labor of love and I can’t say it any other way,” said Ed Benson, who has been with the theater since its inception and plays Major Metcalf in “Mouse Trap.” “We’ve worked together to rebuild this space and make it ours.”
Benson said the cast would come often, even after work, to fix up the theater, working a couple times a week and putting in three or four hours shifts at a time. The building’s old stage has even been repurposed into a counter top.
Clark, who came to the Grange as a child, said it has been great to see the building get another life as a theater. Benson said one of his favorite things about the new building is its accessibility for those of all abilities compared to the Masonic building.
“I’ve lived in the Valley for 31 years, and for the last 18. I’ve been doing theater with this group,” Benson said. “It’s just really exciting to be back.”
Wynter Elwood, who is directing the play alongside her husband, Brenden, said since the group performed “The Murder on the Orient Express,” many North Bend residents have been asking the group to perform more of Christie’s works. Several of the cast members also said they keep coming to Valley Center Stage for its supportive following.
“I come out from Seattle to do shows here because I love the theater and the community.” said Julia Buck, who plays Mollie Ralston. “North Bend is a charming town. The people are great and the audience is fantastic.”
For tickets, visit valleycenterstage.org. Per state law, those entering the show must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.