Thursday, November 19, 2009

Farewell Second Street: the curtain comes down on a Bend stage

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 11:31 PM


The first time I saw a show at The Second Street Theater was in the Theater’s 2001 inaugural season. I was enthralled. Not so much by the acting, which was good, but by the venue, which was terrific. While I’m not sure that every amateur actor like me desires to play on a small intimate stage with the audience a few feet away, I had always wanted to have that opportunity. Now that opportunity was at hand.
A week after seeing that first show, I met with then Second Street partner Steve Daugherty and he added me to the Theater’s growing audition list. I auditioned a few months later and secured a apart in the spring 2002 production of Lisa Loomer’s “The Waiting Room.
The play was intriguing as it challenged the players and local audiences. Let’s face it the theme of women dealing with cancer was not one Bend audiences were used to being presented. No, at that time, this was pretty much a town of theater standards-safe stuff that wouldn’t offend or make patrons go away from the theater thinking.
Stepping outside the norm was the goal Second Street’s three original partners (Maralyn Thoma, Steve Daugherty and Janet Kingsley) had in mind when they formed the theater. That, and paying actors, directors and tech people. It was only $50 for the run of a show but it was a nice gesture and well received.
During the run of “The waiting Room” I got to know Maralyn Thoma. An actress and chorine turned soap-opera scriptwriter, Thoma proved to be an absolute treasure of a theater owner-supportive of directors and actors, enthusiastic about shows and always with a kind word for everyone. She made the theater hum with energy and good feelings.
Thoma became a driving force among actors like me to give our best in order to help the theater establish itself on Bend’s cultural landscape.
Second Street thrived despite a breakup of the original partnership (Kingsley departed) and a change from a non-profit to a profit making concern.
Thought the eight years between opening and the announcement this week that the theater will cease theatrical productions following the current run of “Harvey”, there were some memorable productions.
And there was good fortune for those of us who got to stretch out and advance our acting skills, and, in my case, get to direct several shows.
One of my favorite directorial stories concerns a script I read and immediately started lobbying Thoma to let me stage it at Second Street.
I didn’t hear from her for about a month. Then late one night she called and said, “I read it, I love it, we’re going to do it.”
We did. “Over The River and Through The Woods” played to full houses for its entire run. Second Street reprised the show during their 2008 season.
Times and relationships change and eventually Thoma was left will sole ownership of the theater. This was soon after her soap-opera script writing career had come to an end and the local economy was tanking.
A smattering of well-received shows followed over the past two years and then the slow winding down to not longer staging plays.
Second Streets short run will remain a wonderful period of time in the life of local actors, theater technicians, directors and patrons. Marlalyn Thoma’s cultural gift to our fair city was a magnanimous one from a very special person.


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