News Column

Still seeking a home, Warehouse Theatre Company becomes 'nomadic'

July 27, 2014

By Pat Muir, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

July 27--The Warehouse Theatre Company will stage its summer musical, "Into the Woods," at the downtown 4th Street Theatre, having abandoned an earlier plan to rent space in a former furniture warehouse.

"For the moment, we're going to be kind of nomadic," said Gary Gresham, the community theater group's board president.

The company has been homeless since late last year, when it was forced out of the Allied Arts building at Gilbert Park because of the building's structural problems. In March, the Warehouse board announced a deal that would have put the company into a storage building owned by former Isaak's Home Furnishings owners Bob and Vicky Isaak at 10 E. Washington Ave.

But that move wouldn't work because of conditions required by a city hearing examiner, Gresham said. The conditions, including landscaping and lighting in the building's parking lot, would not have been compatible with the day-to-day warehouse functions of the building, he said.

Hearing Examiner Gary Cuillier imposed the conditions after the theater company applied for permission to use the building in an area zoned for light-industrial use. In addition to the parking lot requirements, Cuillier's ruling limited the company to 61 performances per year. That would be enough for now, but if the company wanted to expand its offerings in the future, that could have been a problem, Gresham said.

Though Cuillier's ruling was actually an approval of their request, not a denial, the theater company could appeal it and ask for adjustments to his mitigation conditions, city of Yakima spokesman Randy Beehler said.

"They balked at the mitigations and haven't pursued it," he said.

That's because the Warehouse board didn't want to keep spending time and rent money on a facility that might not be all that well-suited to its needs, Gresham said.

"We just felt, with all the issues we were facing, it was best to go and find something more suitable," he said.

So they've booked the 4th Street Theatre for "Into the Woods," opening Aug. 15, and will pursue the possibility of using other venues, including The Seasons Performance Hall and Eisenhower High School, Gresham said. The company produced "A Few Good Men" at the Akin Center Theatre earlier this year, and it likely will stage shows there again, he said.

"It will probably be a variety of facilities over the next few years," he said.

The Warehouse Theatre Company had rented space in the Allied Arts building, 5000 Lincoln Ave., for decades before the city deemed it unsafe last October. The company's board discussed taking ownership of the building, but that would have been financially difficult in part due to repair costs expected to reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Gresham said the board has not ruled out a return to the Allied Arts building at some point if another organization takes it on but does not believe owning it would be feasible.

In the meantime, he said, the show will go on -- at various locations.

"Our goal is to continue to do a series of four or five shows a year until we figure out where we're going to land," he said.


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Source: Yakima Herald-Republic (WA)

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