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Doing Dr. Pinckney Justice 

COCC makes moves to rejuvenate the Pinckney Theater and arts on campus

Named for Dr. Orde Pinckney, a local theater staple and professor at Central Oregon Community College from 1955 to 1996, the Pinckney Center for the Performing Arts was, at one point, a cornerstone of Bend culture.

The versatile theater hosted regular performances from the Magic Circle Dance Theater and COCC Theater Program through the late 1990s, when the culture dried up.

"It was wonderful when I came in 1996," said professor of music and COCC veteran Michael Gesme. "The theater was still going strong. It's been through the ringer as far as the program and the room are concerned. We're trying to keep it alive as a viable performance space."

For most of the 2000s, the Pinckney Theater has laid essentially dormant, being used occasionally for COCC events, award ceremonies, holiday bazaars and art exhibits. The theater's former glory, as a cultural hub of Bend, lies far behind it.

"When the economy went down the sewer for the first time, they eliminated our theater and dance program," said Gesme. "That was a big blow for us as far as performances on campus."

But recently, a push to revive the Pinckney and COCC as a player in cultural happenings in Bend is gaining traction, beginning with a partnership with Bend Experimental Art Theater, which will host a production of Annie Jr. in the space this month, and the school's participation in new Jazz at the Oxford series workshops.

"The Pinckney Center is one of the best- kept secrets in Bend," said Howard Schor, executive director of BEAT. "We're reinvigorating the theater and drama at the Pinckney, and at the school."

The show will give COCC Theater Club participants the opportunity to work in the production of the performances. Officials at the school, and with BEAT, hope that Annie Jr. will remind community members about the space and spur more opportunities for the club.

"It's time to get active again," said Gordon Price, head of student life at COCC. "If you have been here for less than five years, you don't know what Pinckney is. Working with BEAT is a way to get the attention back to the Pinckney and get some productions going on up there."

Beyond the theater, members of COCC's music department, which managed to stay intact through budget cuts, will be participating alongside local high school musicians in upcoming workshops put on by the folks who run the Jazz at the Oxford series.

Over the next three months, high school and college-level students will have an opportunity to attend free intensives with world-class musicians like singer/pianist Karrin Allyson, drummer Mel Brown and saxophonist Tom Scott.

"We've wanted to bring a music education component into this because we have a lot of wonderful youth musicians in the market who don't have the opportunity to interact with musicians like the ones we're bringing in," said Marshall Glickman, executive producer for Jazz at the Oxford, who also expressed interest in involving COCC in future programs.

"What if we could raise the funds for an artist to do an artist-in-residency? That's my goal. I would like to see that evolve out of this."

With COCC's artistic participation popping up in more community events, and the Pinckney's doors officially reopened for business, arts advocates on campus are ready for the community to invest in the college as a player in the cultural scene.

"We're a community college, so we want that community participation," said Price. "Looking into the future, if the theater club is active in putting on productions, we're able to rent that space and get it in use again." SW

Annie Jr.

At Bend High, 230 N.E. Sixth St.

7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17 to Saturday, Jan. 19

3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20

At Pinckney Center for the Performing Arts, 2600 N.W. College Way

7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 26

2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 and Sunday, Jan. 27

More information and tickets at

Jazz at the Oxford Free Educational Music Workshops

Jan. 19

Singer/pianist Karrin Allyson, Summit High

Feb. 23

Drummer Mel Brown, Summit High

March 16

Saxophonist Tom Scott, Mountain View High

Call 541-382-8436 for more details.


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