BANDON - Two months ago, the Bandon Playhouse was facing its final curtain. After more than 40 years of providing theatrical productions to the community, the Playhouse verged on dissolution.
But a new board, however, is refusing to leave the stage. Instead, they hope to revive the spirit and commitment of the Playhouse’s founders while embracing the changing expectations of contemporary audiences.
“We face a number of harsh realities,” said Neal Davis, one of the Playhouse's new board members. “Audiences have dropped off while production costs have soared. Our membership is practically non-existent and, worse, few in the community seemed to care."
The last production, the well-received and successful "The Wizard of Oz" was in August 2017. But since then theater involvement has diminished. This wasn’t a sudden situation, and not unique to Bandon.
“Local theater groups have had a rough few years," Davis said. "Politics have polarized communities, attention spans are shorter, school theater departments are disappearing and technology has redefined entertainment for younger audiences. For Bandon, it’s been a slow burn, building over the last decade. As key players left, either by moving or frustration or death, fewer and fewer stepped in to replace them.”
Davis credits the last several boards with trying to keep the Playhouse healthy, but agrees it’s been an uphill battle.
“Our survival has relied much more on the support from local business sponsors than our audiences. We hope to change that.”
A key step to that change is education.
"Whether your dream is to act, direct, or build stages and costumes, we’ll help make that happen," Davis said. "We’re creating classes, hopefully free to members, in all aspects of theater. They’ll be fun and fast-paced and will, if successful, create a foundation for future years.”
The Playhouse is also stressing community. Bandon’s history and people provide a treasure of fascinating personalities and experiences. Bandon Playhouse want to reveal that treasure.
Davis cites the success of the The Gaels Readers Theater and their popular collaborations with the Bandon Historical Society Museum.
“Give people a story they can feel connected to, and they will come," he said.
However, the Playhouse has a long way to go. It needs members, including an additional person for the board. It also needs ideas and talent to turn those ideas into reality. The new board has the energy and commitment to make the nonprofit corporation work. It is hoped that past members and new will join in bringing the Playhouse back as a vital part of Bandon’s identity. Playhouse is still dedicated to its mission statement of "Keeping the Magic of Theater Alive."
The new executive board includes Davis, Mike Dempsey, Richard Robinett, John Fink, Jeff Norris, Amy Moss Strong and Cathy Underdown.
The Playhouse’s next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the Ocean Crest Elementary School staff lounge (enter through the front door of the school). This location is temporary, though nostalgic for former Playhouse members, as the Sprague Theater is undergoing needed repairs following smoke damage last month from a faulty heating system.
“We’re going to keep it fast and interesting,” promised Davis. “I hope people come, meet the new board, and help us create something amazing for our town.”
For more information, like the Bandon Playhouse Facebook page or visit their website at bandonplayhouse.org.