Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Northwest Senior Theatre is back after a 3 ½-year hiatus and again entertaining audiences with its talented cast of seniors.
For those not familiar with the troupe of professional and non-professional performers, Northwest Senior Theatre has been entertaining audiences in the metro area for more than 30 years, with the last 20 years at the Alpenrose Dairy Opera House. The closing of the Opera House at the end of 2019 followed by the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the world in the spring of 2020 might have been a death knell for some theater companies but not if Areanne Lloyd, president of the board and a cast member, had anything to do with it.
“I never let it go,” she said. “We lost some people, and some moved. But we had a committed group that stayed in touch. We had Zoom meetings. We never stopped talking to each other. I couldn’t let Northwest Senior Theatre die.
“We had a venue committee looking for places we could use. We never had a budget for renting a space. We want to thank the Cadonau family for use of the Dairy Opera House.”
Luckily, they found Rise Church (formerly Calvin Presbyterian) in Tigard, where they rehearse Monday and Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for upcoming shows and hold their performances. Once they found the church, the good luck continued. George Mauro, a freelance musician at the church, came on as their sound technician and then expanded his role by creating the overhead images that accompany each show.
“George is a miracle worker,” said Lloyd, who explained that although one of their cast members put together their comeback show in 2022, “when we told George we needed a director, he said, ‘Meet my wife (Lennon Smith).’ We met for coffee, and I gave her a DVD of our past shows. She took it home and called three hours later to say, ‘I’m in.’”
Smith, who moved here with her husband two years ago, has a bachelor of arts degree in theater, a master’s degree in counseling psychology and an impressive resume. She was involved with community theater in the Bay Area from 1992-2020 and worked as a teaching artist, director and production manager for a performing arts school from 2015 to 2020. “I started directing plays in the 2000s,” said Smith, joking, “I like being the boss.
“I was looking for a cause when I moved here. I wanted it to be creative and also involve the brain and movement and be around people. I feel I’m contributing to the world with these lovely people.”
For Smith’s first show last spring, she and her stage manager Paula Wenzl came up with the theme of “A Century of Broadway from Vaudeville to Wicked.” “It was fun to go through the whole century,” Smith said. “We started with 80 songs and narrowed them down.”
Lloyd said that she sent out a notice for the first rehearsal to everyone on her list, and the production grew from there. “We went from 22 people in the cast when we closed to eight in the first show, and now we have 12,” she said. “And we are so lucky to have found this church. They are so supportive of us – it’s a blessing.”
The newest show is not the theater company’s traditional “Christmas holiday” production, and the title, “Every Holiday Has a Song,” gives it away. “We are doing every month of the year and found songs,” Smith said. “Then we had to get copies (of the music) and make sure we could legally use the songs.”
Northwest Senior Theatre is back to producing two shows each year and still working on financing. “We used to have sponsors and are looking for sponsors again,” Lloyd said. “We feel fortunate that we have some grants from foundations. Ticket sales help. Ads in the programs sometimes pay for their printing.”
Attendance has been rising. Last year’s show had fewer than 300 people for the three shows, and about 600 people attended the spring show’s three productions. Rise’s sanctuary seats about 350 people, so there is still plenty of room to grow.
“This is like heaven for me,” Smith said. “With the other plays I have done, we usually rehearse in the evenings because people work. Now we rehearse during the day.”
Northwest Senior Theatre is looking for more cast members, who are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Northwest Senior Theatre presents: Every Holiday Has A Song
When: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15, 17 and 18, at 2 p.m.
Where: “The Stage” at Rise Church. 10445 SW Canterbury Lane, Tigard
There is plenty of free parking, and the venue is wheelchair- and walker-accessible. For more information, call 503-251-4332 or email email@example.com.