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Event marks reopening of Foster Roads historic Bob White Theater

by: David F. Ashton, For the first time in decades, an audience fills in the auditorium of the historic Bob White Theater on S.E. Foster Road.  Recently, it had been an informal workshop for pipe organ repair.

For the first time in decades, the marquee of the historic Bob White Theater at 6423 S.E. Foster Road was brightly lit - inviting neighbors in for an all-ages evening of music, entertainment and exploration on March 31.

Two months ago in THE BEE, new owner Nick Storie said he purchased the old theater, hoping to turn it into a community arts palace - an amenity lacking in the Foster Road corridor of Southeast Portland.

Thanks to the help of a corps of dedicated volunteers and helpers, drop-boxes had been filled with debris and carted away, theater seats were scrubbed and vacuumed, and the floor was now swept clean. Others had replaced light bulbs and made temporary repairs.

'I'm calling it a 'Community Appreciation Party',' the newly-minted, dapperly-dressed impresario told THE BEE. 'For the first time in a quarter century, the doors are open, the lights are on, music is here, and people are having a good time.'

As Storie 'worked the crowd', guests looked over the theater. 'It's amazing how good this looks inside,' remarked Keith Browne, pointing out the giant painted murals and chandeliers.

On the auditorium stage, the evening's Master of Ceremonies, Eric Scharf, welcomed in the crowd, explaining, 'This wonderful place is the brainchild of Mr. Nick Stoire. It's based on his love for the community - a part of Portland that in many ways is neglected. He's working to give this part of Portland a center for arts that it deserves.'

Introduced as Nick Storie's 'better half', Janelle Storie told how she grew up in the Lents area, and recalled that her family came to the theater. 'It's an awesome space and we are happy to be here. I want to say, after 27 years, 'The lights are back on in the house!' She opened up in 1924 and has had a long history here - there are a lot of stories in this building.'

Her husband was beaming as he then took the stage. 'Thank you, everybody, for coming out tonight. There haven't been this many people in here since the late 1980s.'

About upcoming events in the theater, Storie smiled, 'Don't ask me 'What's happening?' Tell me when you want to use the space. Don't ask me if you can, tell me when you'd like to here!'

As live music with The Fallmen, Jennie Wayne, and The Bottlecap Boys played throughout the evening, folks didn't seem to mind using the porta-potties, inasmuch as the restrooms were still under renovation.

Taking a break for a moment, Storie reflected, 'I'm just blown away here; I don't have words for this - I'm astonished by it all. I'm proud of what I've done and so thankful for all the people would've come out to help.'