PORT ORCHARD — Community theater is coming back to Port Orchard after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
Local theater-goers can get their fix beginning Friday, July 9 at the Western Washington Center for the Arts in Port Orchard with the opening of “A Perfect Match — An Evening of Short Comedies,” directed by Kristi Ann Jacobson.
With statewide restrictions lifted, pre-pandemic life seems to be coming back — which includes the jitters of performing in front of a live audience. Jacobson said for her actors, “It’s exciting and scary at the same time” to be back to performing in person.
“We’ve been in isolation for so long that getting the wonderful opportunity to share our art in person again is exciting,” Jacobson said. She added with a laugh: “And, yeah, we’re going to have to step out of our shells a little bit.”
Jacobson started out at WWCA as an actor and then began directing shows. She has directed shows at many of the community theaters in Kitsap County.
When the theater was shut down during the pandemic, WWCA reached out to Jacobson and asked if she would be willing to put together a few filmed scenes and monologues for theater patrons to see virtually. Without a budget, Jacobson pulled together actors she knew to create the scenes. During this time, restrictions changed to allow those vaccinated to assemble, which opened the doors for Jacobson to create a series of one-act performances.
After deciding on four one-acts — and right around the time the group began filming — Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state would be reopening on June 30. Jacobson reached out to the theater’s board about performing the show in person, to which they said yes.
The show will be performed Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 4 p.m., through July 25. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 360-769-7469.
Actors will perform without masks, but theater patrons will be asked to wear them, Jacobson said. Normally, the theater has a meet-and-greet session with performers and the audience after the show, but Jacobson said she isn’t sure this will take place at this show.
Jacobson said when theaters closed due to the pandemic, it was novel for her to take a break from the theater. But that novelty quickly wore off.
“You just miss it because it’s your heart and your soul — and it’s your family,” Jacobson said. “We’re a big, tight-knit family group.”
Of the reopening, Jacobson said, “The chance to actually get out and practice the art and to be with my [theater] family again is a wonderful thing.”
Cindy Fitch, president of the theater’s board of directors, echoed Jacobson’s family sentiment.
“It’s like a family, you know, everybody that works down there, we all get along. We all love what we do, and we’re all passionate about bringing live theater to Port Orchard,” Fitch said. “So the shutdown has been really hard on a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons.”
Fitch said it has been a “huge hole” to not have live theater in the community for the past year.
Fitch has been involved with WWCA almost from the organization’s start. She attended a WWCA show when it was hosted at First Lutheran Church and afterward, she said she was hooked.
Fitch said WWCA is grateful to have made it through the pandemic. The organization was fortunate that it received three different grants that kept it afloat. That, plus a generous landlord, helped WWCA survive the past year, Fitch said. WWCA is currently running a GoFundMe to raise money for opening expenses for their fall season.
Fitch said having live theater in Port Orchard makes it a “more rounded community.”
The performances draw people into the area, who also help support small businesses by going out to eat before the shower getting drinks afterward, Fitch said.
Coreen Haydock is a South Kitsap community member whose kids performed in shows at WWCA, which got her involved with the theater. Haydock said she has done nearly every job at the theater besides being on stage.
Haydock said that she is thrilled the theater is back. She echoed the sentiment of Fitch and Jacobson that the theater is a family.
“People who do community theater are very devoted to it,” Haydock said. “I’m sure for a lot of them, it was a big heartache not to do that these last 15 months.”
Normally the theater does a six-show season, but this September the company will start a mini three-show season with “Pirates of Penzance.” Patrons can look forward to seeing “Love Letters” in October and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” in November. Then, Fitch said, they’ll start another mini-season at the beginning of next year.
By fall 2022, the theater expects to be back to its regular six-show season, Fitch said. And with the theater reopening, perhaps some new theater-goers will find themselves in WWCA’s seats.
“I’ve always tried to encourage people [that] if they’d never been to community theater, to give it a try,” Haydock said.