February 9, 2009
Theater arts in need of community donors
First Stage Theatre, owned and operated by Village Theatre on Front Street in downtown Issaquah, may epitomize the history of the area and its early citizens better than any other historic building in the area. The former Issaquah Theatre was built in 1913.Pioneer families traveled from the plateau by horse and buggy to view the silent films to the accompaniment of a pianist. Vaudeville acts followed, and then movies. The theater’s flat floor allowed for dances, graduations and other community events when the seats were pushed back. It was last run by a local church group as a movie theater before Village Theatre took over the operation, bringing live drama, comedy and musicals to the stage in 1979.
At first, Village Theatre was more of a venue for local talent, a true “community theater.” But as the popularity of the shows grew, so did the professionalism. The theater began paying its actors and orchestra members. Shows were often sold out.
Village Theatre built its new 490-seat theatre in 1984, but chose to keep First Stage for youth theater productions and Village Originals, plays that are making their debut, usually works in progress.
Combined, First Stage and Village Theatre have brought national attention to the cultural arts in the Issaquah area. But the 96-year-old First Stage building is crumbling. Remodeling is out of the question. Reconstruction is critical.
Reconstruction also offers opportunities to make better use of space. Tiny bathrooms will be replaced, a larger lobby will be incorporated, and there will be 195 new telescoping seats to continue the multifunctional part of the theater’s history. And the new, larger stage will have all of the storage and modern equipment needed to ensure the theater’s perpetuity.
But these things don’t come without a price tag. The $2.8 million reconstruction project needs the support of the community. If you can help, or can help the theater connect to foundations that would be interested in helping, act now. Here’s your chance to preserve local history while supporting local arts. Call Village Theatre at 392-1942.