Its first event lights up historic, reopened Bob White Theater

Although far from yet being fully renovated, see what fun there was at an event to welcome folks into this landmark Foster Road entertainment hall again …

Some of the many folks who’ve helped spruce up the Bob White Theater dust and vacuum seats in the main auditorium on March 10.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the first time in decades, the marquee of the historic Bob White Theater, at 6423 S.E. Foster Road was brightly lit – inviting in neighbors in for an all-ages evening of music, entertainment, and exploration, on March 31.

  • See the previous East Portland News story detailing the theater’s
    renovation: CLICK HERE.

In that article, new building owner Nick Storie said he purchased the theater, hoping to turn it into a community arts palace – an amenity lacking in Southeast Portland.

The marquee outside the Bob White Theater on March 31st invites in the public, for the first time in decades.

Thanks to the help of a corps of dedicated volunteers and helpers, drop-boxes were filled with debris and carted away, theater seats were scrubbed and vacuumed, and the floor was swept clean. Others replaced light bulbs, and made temporary repairs.

“I’m calling it a ‘Community Appreciation Party’,” the newly-minted, dapperly-dressed impresario told East Portland News. “For the first time in 25 years, the doors are open, the lights are on, music is here, and people are having a good time.”

Foster Road impresario Nick Storie chats with friends and well-wishers at the Community Appreciation Party.

For the first time in decades, an audience fills in the auditorium of the historic Bob White Theater.

As Storie “worked the crowd”, guests looked over the theater. “It’s amazing how good the theater looks inside,” remarked Keith Browne, pointing out the giant painted murals and chandeliers.

Master of Ceremonies Eric Scharf welcomes everyone to the Bob White Theater.

In the auditorium stage, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Eric Scharf, welcomed all, explaining, “This wonderful place is the brainchild of Mr. Nick Stoire.  It’s based on his love for the community – a part of Portland that in many ways is neglected. He’s working to give this part of Portland a center for arts that it deserves.”

Introduced as Nick Storie’s “better half Janelle”, told how she grew up in the Lents area, and recalled that her family did come to the theater. “It’s an awesome space, and we are happy to be here. I want to say that, after 27 years, ‘The lights are back on in the house!’ She opened up in 1924, and has had a long history here – there a lot of stories in this building.”

Janelle concluded, “There a lot of people who’ve been really supported the effort physically, emotionally, spiritually – and, just walking by, giving support. Let’s hear it for Nick Storie!”

Storie was beaming as he took the stage. “Thank you, everybody, for coming out tonight. There haven’t been this many people in here since the late 1980s.”

Talking about his project, Storie continued, “I’m thankful for the great team of people who’ve helped us with this. I’ve spent my whole life working on different crews and different [construction] jobs. But here, ‘all of the stars aligned perfectly’ with this project – I think the crew that we have today is the crew that will help us finish it. The theater is looking better every day.”

Bob White Theater renovator Nick Storie greets the audience.

Sharing his vision for the facility, Storie went on, “This is your theater, really. It’s for us in the neighborhood. It’s for the little kids to someday get up on stage. It’s for classical music, for rock, for independent film, and live theater. This is just the start!”

About upcoming programming in the theater, Storie stated, “Don’t ask me ‘What’s happening?’ Tell me when you want to use the space. Don’t ask me if you can, tell me when you’d like to here!”

As live music with The Fallmen, Jennie Wayne, and The Bottlecap Boys played throughout the evening, folks didn’t seem to mind using the porta-potties while the restrooms were still under renovation.

Taking a break for a moment, Storie reflected, “I’m just blown away here; I don’t have words for this – I’m astonished by it all.  I’m proud of what I’ve done, and so thankful for all the people who’ve come out to help.”

About his children, who were originally highly skeptical of their dad’s endeavor, Storie commented, “I’m so happy that they’re now seeing the progress, and being a part of this.”

The bands have kids of all ages up dancing, at the “opening night” of the Bob White Theater, even though it’s still under renovation.

Stay in touch with the progress in restoring the historic Bob White Theater by checking their Facebook page: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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