Old building work means PO theater will have to move

Leaders ask for support to make sure culture lives on

“A devastating blow” is how Rebecca Ewen and other Port Orchard theater leadership are describing the news that the longtime home of the Western Washington Center for the Arts will no longer be theirs.

The WWCA made its initial renovations to the historic waterfront building at 521 Bay Street in early 2002 and has been putting on productions at the theater ever since. The artistic director for the not-for-profit theater, Ewen said it is at the peak of its success, having survived both a recession and the COVID pandemic.

“Over the last two decades, we have poured our hearts and souls, as well as blood, sweat and tears, into building this theater, collaboratively creating this successful artistic platform that it has become,” she said.

That success will have to occur elsewhere, the WWCA reporting on its website and in front of the Port Orchard City Council Oct. 24 that the 2023-24 season would be its last at its present location “due to reasons beyond our control.”

“Our building was built over 100 years ago (1918) and requires a heavy amount of foundation and construction work that has led our new landlords to have us seek an alternate location,” she said.

The blow is just as devastating for longtime performers like young Spring Austin, who’s been performing in shows for around seven years and attending shows before that. With so much time spent in the walls of the building, it has easily become a second home for many involved.

“It’s a place of complete acceptance, full of such talent, and I was severely disheartened when I learned of its current situation,” Austin said. “Something many people may not realize is the WWCA is essentially the only theater left in town, and to lose it would not only be a loss for the actors and crew that have worked there but also a loss for our town and our rich culture.”

The WWCA’s season concludes mid-May, by which time the organization hopes to have a new location. Ewen, in the meantime, is stressing the need to support the theater and is asking for support moving forward. “With other theaters closing down in this area, the need to support local arts right now is more dire than ever,” she said.

Upcoming shows include the annual Holiday Special (Nov. 24 – Dec. 17), Love, Loss and What I Wore (Jan. 19 – Feb. 4), Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (March 1-17) and The Wedding Singer (April 26 – May 19).