“And I, Pluto’s Only Cactus” is among the many offbeat plays staged at the Chameleon Theater. Appearing in the 2012 production were, from left, Jeremiah Morgan, Rosa Davies and Michelle Hensel. (photo courtesy The Chameleon Theater)

“And I, Pluto’s Only Cactus” is among the many offbeat plays staged at the Chameleon Theater. Appearing in the 2012 production were, from left, Jeremiah Morgan, Rosa Davies and Michelle Hensel. (photo courtesy The Chameleon Theater)

Artistic director begins campaign to keep Chameleon alive

PORT TOWNSEND — The Chameleon Theater is changeable like its namesake: It can have 50 seats for a flamenco concert, 30 seats for a magic show or just use the stage for a children’s theater camp.

Joey Pipia, artistic director of the venue at 800 W. Park Ave., hopes to see it light up again, though he can’t know when.

To prepare for that fine day, Pipia is starting a monthlong campaign to raise $10,000 for rent, utilities and other basics.

The page is open to donors at gofundme.com/f/joey-pipia-owner.

“This is the first time I’ve reached out like this,” said Pipia, who started teaching acting classes at a downtown location, then moved to the Park Avenue theater 10 years ago.

He added that he applied for multiple state grants to keep the Chameleon alive, and “they were very gracious, but they said no.”

While the Chameleon is small, Pipia believes it has affected thousands of lives: as a performance space and as a place for youth theater programs and shows.

In-house productions range from Dillon Porter’s 2019 one-man show portraying Walt Whitman to Rosaletta Curry’s “The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe” in 2016.

Other local directors and actors have presented plays such as Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” and Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”

Peninsula College professor Wes Cecil’s play “The Last of Us” took the tiny stage in 2010.

And Pipia’s daughters, Phina and Sophie, taught many summer theater camps for children with the Chameleon as home base.

Improv classes and shows have rocked the room, and the annual Wooden Boat Festival pirate play has taken shape there.

“This original play must be written, cast, rehearsed, and delivered, ready-to-go. All of that has been done, each of those 10 years, at, and by, the Chameleon,” Pipia said.

Last summer Pipia offered a kids’ camp via Zoom, and “it was hard. Difficult,” he said. A parent told him youngsters are plain burned out on sitting in front of their screens.

“I get it,” he said.

These days Pipia hopes for a return to live theater — and lively people of any age — at his venue. Back when he was home schooling his children, he took them to shows at the Seattle Children’s Theater, and together they were inspired to offer their own family productions at the Chameleon.

Pipia recalled the last performance there before the pandemic arrived: flamenco artist Savannah Fuentes danced for a rapt audience.

“I look forward to having her back,” he said.

_________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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