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With volunteer help, the theatre company in Wilsonville expects to continue putting on plays

PMG FILE PHOTO - WilsonvilleSTAGE, a local theater company, performed 'Sylvia' last fall at Charbonneau Country Club and the Wilsonville Public Library.

About a year ago, WilsonvilleSTAGE was falling on hard times. Longtime play director and board of directors member Terry Kester recently had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and had to take a leave of absence.

Meanwhile, Kester and other board members were worried that without more support from the community, Wilsonville's only theater company might dissipate.

Their tone has since shifted.

Though some of the organization's challenges haven't receded, WilsonvilleSTAGE President Dave Niklas is optimistic that the organization will continue entertaining audiences for the foreseeable future.

"As long as we can find volunteers willing to work on the board or as volunteers building and designing sets, whatever, there seems to be plenty of interest in theater in Wilsonville ,and we hope to fill it as long as we can," he said.

Since Kester's leave of absence, the board has produced "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]" and "Sylvia." The two plays were put on by different directors and both were small-scale productions featuring just a few cast members.

Board members said they were hoping to attract more volunteers a year ago and Niklas said they have added a few since then. But considering the small number of volunteers who work to make these plays come together, Niklas said the organization is focusing on simpler performances that don't require intricate sets.

"It (sets) puts a big burden on your human capital. The easier it is to set up and take down, the better it is for the relationships with your volunteers," he said. "No one likes to give up free weekends and work for five to six hours every afternoon. We like to have something that sets up easily and goes up and down easily."

Also, 2019 was the first year the group hosted performances at the Wilsonville Public Library, and Niklas said there was a bigger audience at the second show than the first.

WilsonvilleSTAGE also performs at Charbonneau Country Club and is preparing a production of "The Lion in Winter," which is slated for February.

"If we can establish that that's (the library) one of our venues it will go a long way toward cementing us in the minds of theater-goers in Wilsonville," Niklas said.

WilsonvilleSTAGE plans to put on three shows per year and Niklas said the board hopes to eventually increase that total to five by adding a production that involves

children and a Christmas show.

Niklas also said the board hopes to receive sponsorships from the Wilsonville business community, though he said finding enough volunteer hours to conduct solicitation efforts isn't easy.

However, he said the group is on solid financial footing.

"We're sitting fiscally in as strong of a position as we've been in three years," he said.

As for Kester, Niklas said he is cancer-free but hasn't been active in the organization.

The theater group's biggest wish is for the City of Wilsonville to help develop a community venue where they can regularly perform. A City-led advisory committee recently discussed that idea, but it's far away from coming to fruition.

For now, Niklas is happy with where the organization sits.

"I'm really pleased with the amount of people who have been coming to the shows and hope to continue and build that audience," Niklas said.


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