Gig Harbor’s Paradise Theatre finds new home


Scott Turner, KP News

Paradise Theatre started the new year in a brand new home.

As soon as the final curtain fell on their production of “Scrooge” on Dec. 12, the community-based theater group began tearing down sets and moving everything –– sets, lights, costumes, props, tools and memories –– to new digs on Judson Street in downtown Gig Harbor, in the space formerly occupied by the Rexall drugstore.

“It’s a huge task,” said Key Peninsula resident Jonathan Bill, who has acted in at least 12 Paradise plays over the past six-or-so years.

Bill helped move several big truckloads of “stuff” from the theatre’s old location on Burnham Drive to the new space.

“When you’ve been in a space for more than 10 years you accumulate so much,” he said. “It’s a formidable project.”

Paradise’s president and managing director Jeff Richards and his wife Vicki, the group’s artistic director, thought the theatre would be in the Burnham drive location forever. “We thought we had an agreement that we’d either be buying that property or gifted it by the church that owned it,” Jeff Richards said.

But the church dissolved and the property was sold to a developer and the Richards, who lived for many years on the Key Peninsula, were given notice that they had to vacate the space by Dec. 31.

Fortunately, they had been looking for a new location for several months.

The Judson Street site is a temporary one, through March 2017, Jeff Richards said. But the location couldn’t be better.

“It’s centrally located and very visible –– right in the heart of downtown. It’s next door to 7 Seas Brewery and there’s plenty of parking and lots of restaurants nearby. We’re already working on dinner packages with the downtown restaurants so people can do a dinner-and-theater date night,” Richards said. “It’s really wonderful.”

Key Peninsula resident Marianne McColley agreed. McColley has acted and served as music director in several Paradise productions and now sits on the board of directors.

“It’s going to be such fun to tell folks where we are because everyone knows that downtown location,” McColley said. “Let’s face it. We were pretty invisible in that old Burnham Drive space. Even if you knew where it was, it was still hard to find.”

“So instead of being totally undone by suddenly having to move, we’re all feeling very happy about it. It’s like that old saying about when a door gets closed a window opens. The board is very enthusiastic about this,” she said.

The visibility of the new location will be a boon to the capital campaign Paradise’s board recently launched.

“We’re trying to raise $1.25 million to build a new, permanent home for Paradise,” McColley said. “The visibility of the new location will really help us with our fundraising efforts.”

“People will know that there’s actually live theater in Gig Harbor,” Bill added.

At press time, volunteers were putting the finishing touches on the new stage, Bill said. “They still have to install all the lighting and curtains and build walls for storage and backstage areas. And even bathrooms.

“There’s so much to do before “Nunsense" opens on Feb. 5, and most of the work is being done by volunteers –– and by Jeff and Vicki. But I know they’ll pull it off and the curtain will go up and the show will go on,” he said.

In addition to “Nunsense,” the Richards have already set the line-up for the remainder of the 2016 season: Paradise will present “The Fantasticks” in March, “Next to Normal” in late April and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in mid-June.

They’re also planning to re-create their immensely popular haunted house in October.

“We’d like to find an outdoor space where we can do the haunted house but if not, we’ll do it inside,” Richards said.

Richards, Bill and McColley all emphasized the company’s need for volunteers.

Like community theaters everywhere, Paradise operates through the goodwill of its volunteers, Bill said. “They always need help building sets, doing marketing and promotional work, painting, carpentry and also they’re always looking for actors. And monetary donations.”

And, McColley added, “We’re looking forward to putting on the same classy productions as always, and Paradise is the only theater game in town. So we hope that the community will help us build a permanent home.”

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