After 19 years, curtain closes for theater troupe
For Nolene Triska, an unexpected yet memorable moment with the Performing Arts Group of Estacada occurred while the group performed "On the Razzle" by Tom Stoppard.
"The cast performed so wonderfully that the laughter in the audience was amazing," Triska said. "They just couldn't stop laughing, and a lady came up to me and said that she wet her pants and I thought, 'this is your badge of excellence.'"
Triska joined PAGE at the second meeting in 2001, and has supported the group ever since.
Emily Moon, who started at PAGE in 2006, directed five plays for the group.
"It was really one of the most satisfying, best life experiences I've ever had," Moon said.
However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and the Performing Arts Group of Estacada is no exception.
"We are sad to announce that after 19 years, PAGE has ceased operations," a post on the group's Facebook page said. "We thank our alums and audience members for making great theater happen."
As a nonprofit, the group relied on volunteers to direct, act, host the performances, create their own sets and do stage design. As all the members grew busier it became harder for the group to stay afloat. Admission to the performances was free, and the only revenue for the shows came from a tip jar at the front of the auditorium.
"We wanted to make sure that the theater was accessible for everyone," Moon said. There was no cost to join the group either.
PAGE's former members recently took the time to reflect on the years of work and passion that went into the theater group.
Like Triska, Kolieha Bush joined the group at its start, seeing it as an opportunity for her and her family to try something new. A visual artist by trade, performing in the group's first play would be her first time acting since she was a child.
"It just sounded so intriguing," Bush said. "My kids and my husband and I all went to the first kind of workshop."
The group began after Kate Hawke of Artists Repertory Theater came to Estacada to lead a workshop after Estacada received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Foundation to host a play. Hawke led the group in writing their own play, titled "The Chair Wasn't There," and performing it for the community.
"Everything was done by group consensus," Triska said. "I wouldn't have thought it worked, but it worked."
The play was a success, and after Hawke left, the members decided to officially become a theater group and continued to write and perform plays.
"From the beginning, we had talented musicians and singers that added a huge element of fun to the whole thing," Bush said. "We made up songs, and it was just a great experience."
The theater group welcomed all ages, allowing children to be just as involved in the performance as the adult actors and stagehands.
"One thing that I really liked about the group was that the kids were sort of on the same level as the adults as far as roles and their opinion of things," Bush said. "It wasn't a bunch of grown-ups telling a bunch of kids what to do. It was just a bunch of people working together to do a play and that, I think, was really empowering for the kids."
Any member of the show could audition and be cast in any role no matter if their gender or age matched that specific role. The group encouraged family involvement, viewing theater as a way to teach life lessons to everyone who joined.
"There's really something about being in front of an audience, I think it was good for the kids too," Triska said. "The kids blossomed with this; they just came out of their shells."
On June 26, the Performing Arts Group of Estacada threw a farewell party.
"During our farewell party there were tears all around," Triska said. "And the one thing that kept us from being ultra-sad was the thought that we can always be reconstituted."
But, despite the group's demise, for the theater members and the community they performed for, the Performing Arts Group of Estacada lives on.
"It's one of the most wonderful parts of my life," Triska said. "Absolutely some of the happiest times were with PAGE."
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