Dangling by a thread
It's been a rocky two-year patch for community theater group WilsonvilleSTAGE, formerly known as Wilsonville Community Theater.
After being without a space to both rehearse and perform for more than a year after its previous home, Frog Pond Grange, increased its renting fees, the theater group bounced around at the mercy of its shoestring budget and the generosity of community venues. But for the past six months, things had been looking brighter for the theater group.
Near the end of 2016, the WilsonvilleSTAGE entered into a one-year contract to use the Clackamas Community College Wilsonville Campus' large conference room as its new rehearsal and performance space. With ample parking and room to seat nearly 100 audience members, the group enjoyed a brief period of stability.
In addition, on April 27 the Wilsonville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board awarded a $7,000 grant from the City's Opportunity Grant program to WilsonvilleSTAGE for the purchase of new lighting and sound equipment. WilsonvilleSTAGE Artistic Director and President Terry Kester says that after months of struggling to keep things moving, it was refreshing to finally have things come together. But by May, Kester says that it all started to unravel.
CCC announced that it would not be renewing the use agreement with WilsonvilleSTAGE due to plans to expand and relocate space on the Wilsonville campus. As part of the renovations, the large conference classroom that WilsonvilleSTAGE has been using as its base of operations is going to be divided for additional classroom space. Although the renovations won't take place in the immediate future, WilsonvilleSTAGE's contract to continue using the space will not be renewed.
"We've been at Clackamas Community College with the last two shows, but the whole goal for them and for us was to continue," Kester says. "We really thought and were affirmed by the local administrators that this would be a long-range arrangement. But now we're back to the same problem that we've had before. To put it nicely, we've gotten superb support from the City and a nice grant from the Parks and Recreation Department, but all that becomes powerless without a venue. And we are in discussion with other facilities, but what we haven't been able to achieve is any kind of permanent arrangement, which is very, very discouraging."
Although not being able to renew its contract with CCC has placed WilsonvilleSTAGE in a bind, Lori Hall, Clackamas Community College public information officer, says that no ill-will was intended.
"We entered the contract knowing that it was a temporary contract, which is a one-year contract," Hall says. "We did have hopes that we could make it a permanent situation, but recently we've reevaluted the campus, programming and the building and we won't have space to accommodate the theater group anymore, unfortunately."
Kester suspects that the main Oregon City campus and its theater programs were less than thrilled about WilsonvilleSTAGE's presence on the Wilsonville campus, but Hall says that no such influence played a role the contract not being renewed.
"The theater group there in Wilsonville has been a pleasure to work with and I know that the administration enjoyed the first production that they put on," Hall says. "Our mission is to always help the Wilsonville community with the Wilsonville campus and we do hope to continue working with the community."
With solid turnout to shows, positive community feedback and proactive support from the City of Wilsonville, Kester says that he's baffled by the seeming inability to find a long-term home for the group. But he believes that the group will be able to weather this latest storm.
Kester says that the group's current show, " Naked Darrow," is a testament to the group's ability to roll with the punches.
A last minute add to the group's season roster due to the slated musical "I Do, I Do" falling through because of rights and production costs, the one-man biographical drama — written and performed by local actor and playwright Gary Anderson — follows the larger-than-life career and final years of American lawyer Clarence Darrow. It is also the theater group's last planned show.
"We're not going to give up," Kester says. "Although, when this show is over, we're homeless again."