The theatre I had - HNT # 4

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continued from last week. please excuse the blury pics... taken by shaky handed students this afternoon.

2002 flew by. The Rogue had brought even more awareness to the theater. Until that point most people didn’t know it even existed. We estimated that between 2001 and 2003 about ten thousand audience members came through our doors each year with the various shows that were produced there. And when they came, we made sure they were also made aware of the youth services that the facility provided as a whole - the runaway youth shelter, teen pregnancy services, street outreach, and of course, the charter school.

I was now put on “full time” teaching upstairs which provided me with the financial stability I never had ever before. Because I was never “built” to be a teacher… (at least in a formal situation) I tried harder and achieved some success with the students. The ones who responded well were bestowed with “after school jobs” in the theater. What was once thought as nerdy by these hard-nut, at-risk kids - was now becoming hep. Through their experience with us, the kids were also exposed to alternatives and life outside of their hood. A major eye-opener for many.

The company had a full roster of shows to produce as well the now new Rogue Festival to mount. 6 weeks before the 2003 festival, we were abruptly informed that the powers that be (a 100 million dollar a year non-profit agency) would not allow the event to be held at the theater. Apparently it was something deemed as “not fitting their image” – that was the official word at least. There was a mad scramble to find venues which we eventually found in the Tower District. This however spelt the beginning of the end for the theater as a performance venue.

By mid-2003, I was informed that the theater would cease to be a rental facility anymore and Theatre J’Nerique productions would also not be able to continue producing at the space because of “liability issues.” (Funny how no one mentioned liability when we and a select group of students were up on 20 foot scaffoldings with the various renovations we undertook over the years.) I suggested developing a “rider policy” for insurance for rental purposes as a solution... but it was summarily rejected. This told me that I had fallen out of favor by someone upstairs. (I was told later - strictly hush, hush - that the real reason was the amount of ink the theater and I were getting in the press that miffed someone in the upper eschalons.) Soon after, all rentals and productions ceased... and it has remained fallow ever since.

I stayed teaching in the school the last couple of years only because of the financial stability it afforded me… but without the theater at night it has severely impaired my ability to really educate the students. Plus the “buy in” for both the students and me just isn’t there anymore. For the past 2 years the stage has been only served as a classroom. At night the theater is dark.

We have had a great run. I am thankful for the opportunities that were created there. The students we have touched… and who in turn have touched us now have a frame of reference to what’s outside.

This Friday is graduation and the last of our original theatre kids will walk out into the real world. In a week or two ,I will leave the theater I had one last time and tender my resignation. Perhaps I’m being stupid and selfish… but I think my time here is done. I'm not sure what's ahead... but it'll be an adventure. I leave without regrets knowing I leave the space in much better shape from when I found it.

Thus ends this chapter in my life. Come back on Friday for announcements on what hopefully will be the start of a new one.

Cheers and Happy HNT!


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