By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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The Port Angeles Light Opera Association, the 33-year-old nonprofit theater company known as PALOA, is about to put its center up for sale.
The building at 522 Mount Pleasant Road houses PALOA’s trove of costumes, props and set pieces. It’s also where volunteers built backdrops and where actors rehearsed for musicals — “South Pacific,” “Oliver!,” “Oklahoma!,” “Peter Pan,” for example — that have filled the stage at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center.
But while the PALOA Center will soon be on the market with an asking price of $200,000, the company itself is not shutting down, said Richard Stephens, a longtime director, costume designer and now the group’s board president.
For years, Stephens said, “we were a gypsy company” with no permanent home.
Before the organization moved onto the center’s current site in 2006, performers rehearsed in church basements all over town.
PALOA could do that again if it has to, Stephens believes.
What the company cannot do is pay its bills. It must sell the center — or find some other source of income — and soon.
2013’s production of “Guys and Dolls” was not well-attended, said seasoned PALOA board member Bob Lumens.
The company still has debts from that production last summer, and it no longer has the financial cushion it once did.
Last month’s “Return to the Forbidden Planet,” a PALOA-Peninsula College co-production, brought in some money, but only enough to pay a month’s worth of bills for the PALOA Center, Stephens said.
Replacement of the center’s septic system some years back cost some $11,000, Lumens added.
And since the recession began in 2008, PALOA has suffered the plight of many arts organizations: too much competition for patrons’ support and too little fundraising.
Stephens and Lumens, along with the rest of PALOA’s board, have engaged Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty’s Dan Gase, also a Port Angeles City Council member.
If he can find a buyer for the center, PALOA can start planning its next show — “but our needs aren’t just financial; it’s people power, too,” Stephens said.
Over the years, PALOA has attracted highly talented actors and crew members, he said, but they tend to move on.
Clallam County has a lot more arts groups than it did when PALOA sprang up in the early 1980s, so volunteer set builders, lighting and sound technicians, costumers, props people, actors, musicians and would-be board members have more choices.
Yet Stephens and Lumens still hope for a miracle, or at least a rapid sale of the PALOA Center.
They also see PALOA offering something other theater groups don’t: the lavish musical with a live orchestra, elaborate sets and show-stopping numbers.
“We still believe in our mission,” Stephens said, “to bring Broadway to the North Olympic Peninsula.”
By this time, PALOA ordinarily would be getting ready to hold auditions and pay some $10,000 in royalties for the script of a musical.
Instead, Stephens and Lumens are hoping for a buyer for the center. A deep-pocketed patron would be nice, too.
The men also noted that PALOA shows aren’t only about the audiences.
Musical theater gives each crew and cast member a place to shine, Stephens said.
“We were not given this organization,” Lumens added. “We were entrusted with this organization.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.