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'A long time coming': Music Theater of Idaho upgrades to new space

The theater occupied its former building for 20 years, splitting its props, costumes, and other equipment between seven storage containers; then the roof caved in.
Credit: Brian Myrick
Artistic director Jean Andrews, stands in the Tech Room at Music Theater of Idaho in Nampa on Tuesday.

NAMPA, Idaho —

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

It was growing tiresome to empty the water-filled garbage bags used to catch pinhole leaks in the building’s roof. When the roof partially caved in, Musical Theater of Idaho staff knew it was time to find a new space.

The Nampa-based, nonprofit theater organization had occupied its former building for 20 years, said Jean Andrews, the organization’s artistic director. And its props, costumes, and other equipment were split between seven storage units, said CEO Mac Fishman. For the first time since the organization’s debut in 1997, it has a new space that maximizes storage, set construction, and rehearsal space.

Credit: Brian Myrick
Props, stored in plastic tote boxes, tower over the rehearsal space at Music Theater of Idaho in Nampa on Tuesday.

The organization just moved into the space, located at 8626 Birch Lane in Nampa, the last week of June, and its leaders are pleased to have expanded their storage and rehearsal footprint.

Phil Horton, the builder who constructed the space, said he first witnessed the quality of the productions offered by the group when he saw a performance of “Matilda the Musical,” which utilized wire work to fly characters above the stage. Since the group has moved into the new space, he has gotten a behind-the-scenes look at the organization.

“A lot of effort goes into this by volunteers,” Horton said, “so it’s really cool to see.”

Each year, the organization produces six to eight musicals, performing at the Nampa Civic Center, Andrews said. As a nonprofit, the organization has always relied on community support to produce its shows. Being in a brand-new space comes with increased costs, and the organization is expanding its offerings and ways the community can get involved and contribute, Fishman said.

A LARGE AND TALL SPACE

At the new building Tuesday morning, Andrews pointed to rows of clothing racks full of colorful shirts, and towering stacks of plastic storage bins stuffed with costumes from past productions in the building’s costume room. The evening before, actors playing nuns in the organization’s upcoming production of “The Sound of Music” were fitted for their costumes, floor-length black habits occupying a portion of a rack.

In the building’s airy rehearsal space, storage bins filled with additional costumes and props reach most of the way to the ceiling. The old building had rehearsal space, but many set pieces had to be constructed outside because they could not fit through its doorways, Fishman said.

“So for 25 years, it was build it outside, move it inside in pieces, move it over to the civic center, paint it, and maybe it fits, you know, because it’s never been put together,” Fishman said.

Actors typically only had the week leading up to the performance to rehearse with the set pieces, he said. Having a large space with a tall ceiling and large door openings is a boon to the organization, he said.

“Here we’ve got a fully enclosed scene shop that they can do all kinds of things in,” he said.

Erick Pew has acted in several productions, directed the orchestra and worked on the organization’s website. He called the new space a “game-changer.”

“It has been a long time coming,” Pew said.

EXPANDED CLASS OFFERINGS, AND A REVAMPED PATREON

To help pay for the cost of the new space, the organization is offering more classes and private lessons, Fishman said. In addition to summer acting camps for children, the organization will be expanding year-round, with weekend offerings, and acting and improvisation classes for adults, Fishman said.

A new music educator is also joining the staff, and will be offering private lessons in piano, voice, guitar, and other specialties, Fishman said.

“We’re trying to get that going because it’s good, steady income for us, because when you take lessons, it’s normally an ongoing experience,” he said. He is interested in hiring someone who could teach lessons in costuming and sewing, he said.

The organization is also updating its Patreon page, which is a platform that allows the community to donate on a monthly basis, with donors getting access to behind-the-scenes content, Fishman said. Proceeds support the new facility, he said.

A SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY

Music Theater of Idaho has always been largely volunteer-driven. Actors help with set building and costuming, and other roles, Pew said. Lead actors might be seasoned, brand-new to the group’s stage, or have acted for a few years in ensemble roles, learning the ropes of the theater, Andrews said.

“There’s something here if you have an interest and passion in theater,” Andrews said. “Everyone starts from scratch every year.”

For Pew, whose favorite role has been playing Tevya in “Fiddler on the Roof,” being an active participant has provided an activity he can enjoy with his wife and his daughters, who also act, as well as a chance to build connections with people.

“It’s just fun to have a group of people that you feel like you can work together and put together a good quality production that brings a lot of joy and happiness to the community,” he said.

Erin Banks Rusby is a reporter with the Idaho Press. She covers Canyon County, including agriculture, education, and government.

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. Read more at IdahoPress.com. 

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