Changes are in store for the valley’s community theater, driven both by the coronavirus pandemic and business decisions.
The Valley Center Stage in downtown North Bend has brought plays and shows to the area since 2003. But closures on large gatherings following the coronavirus pandemic have forced Valley Center Stage to call off their spring productions. Since then, they’ve been in limbo, unable to return to the stage and perform, but determined to persevere.
Board member Wynter Elwood said the center has received donations from the community and some grants. But rent is still due, and they’re not making money from shows. She’s even been asked if they’re folding.
“And the answer is no,” Elwood said. “So we’re doing OK.”
Still, Elwood said they can’t continue forever not making money from shows. So in response, they’re planning on returning for the holiday season in whatever capacity they can.
A live and fully in-person “A Christmas Carol” holiday production seems unlikely to happen because King County remains in Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee’s plan to reopen the economy, where it’s been stuck since the middle of June. Staff and performers at the center are discussing how to do a virtual production.
“People are really hoping to see some things that bring them to the tradition and normalcy” of the season, Elwood said.
Actors at the center have all been chomping at the bit to get back on stage or perform in some way. The center can’t wait any longer, Elwood said.
“Everyone’s just excited to re-engage,” she said.
The pandemic has forced artists across the valley to get creative in how they approach their mediums, said Beth Burrows, founder of North Bend Art and Industry. The artists that she knows in the valley are forging ahead during quarantine and finding ways to showcase their art.
That includes live streams from musicians, comedians and the crafts.
“So many things are going on. It’s just hard now because we have a wall between being able to see them and enjoy them, all the things that are being created,” Burrows said. “There’s going to be a flood when we are able.”
Burrows said Valley Center Stage participated in a fall arts fundraiser. Cast members from the center came in character for their cancelled spring play, “Murder on the Orient Express,” and talked about where to find art in the Snoqualmie Valley.
“They were so great,” Burrows said.
But on top of changes driven by the pandemic, there’s another in store for when the center returns. Elwood said their current lease in downtown North Bend is ending next June. Valley Center Stage will likely be moving to the Sallal Grange and Community Hall next summer.
No contracts have been signed yet, but Elwood is optimistic that the grange will be their new home. And she’s hoping that they’ll return to presenting full productions by fall 2021.
Elwood said she was grateful for the community donations and grants they have received. This funding has allowed them to keep going, even amid the pandemic.
“We just want to say thank you to the community at large,” Elwood said.