One year ago, the Corvallis Community Theater consolidated with Majestic Theater Management of Corvallis. Dwindling ticket sales, loss of community funding and a tough economy are worthy foes for a theater group. They surrendered all of their assets and agreed to cease operations for five years. This week, a small group of former CCT members met to see how everyone was feeling after their first year in the dark. The answer: frustrated but not forlorn.
The eight attendees were upset with the lack of performance opportunities for the general public. Most attendees agreed that the Majestic’s current director, Corey Pearlstein, has energy and ideas. But they see one group not being served. Them and people like them: those with white hair, to paraphrase an attendee.
Community theater has a 50-year tradition in Corvallis and the group seemed to struggle with the theatrical vacuum since the merger. Actors wanted to act and directors wanted to direct. For them, community theater means a focus on the classics, open auditions for the public and small outlays of money. Think Bye Bye Birdie on a budget starring your pastor’s wife.
A major sticking point is the CTC working group that was to be formed after the merger. This group would stage two productions a year at the Majestic, keeping the community part of theater alive. A year later, no group exists. Is this due to the Majestic Board and management ignoring community theater and the consolidation agreement? Or is it a lack of energy and impetus from the former CTC members?
Attendee Michael Aronson pressed the group to approach the Majestic board with the matter and ask for the go-ahead on the working group. His idea is to energize the community by starting with smaller productions in the Majestic Lab. The end goal would be to attract a director, or core group, who could submit a proposal to the Majestic for a main stage production. He repeatedly stressed that the group needed to be proactive. It was a passionate plea and it roused enough interest to move the question to the Majestic board and solicit a few volunteers.
Can they do it and make it viable? I couldn’t help but think of Willy Loman’s plea to his boss, 36 year-old Howard Wagner, in Death of a Salesman as he asks for $40 a week. “See in those days there was personality in it, Howard. There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it’s all cut and dried and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear or personality. You see what I mean? They don’t know me anymore!”
Time will tell if the Majestic and former CCT can satisfy the desire for the good old days with the realities of the twenty-first century.
by Bridget Egan