After 11 years as a roving theater company, Theater Artists Olympia has found a home at the Midnight Sun, the storefront black box theater in downtown Olympia that has long hosted plays, concerts and workshops.
And after 10 years of managing the Sun, storyteller-actress-vaudeville impresario Elizabeth Lord will have more time for creative pursuits.
“I was having too many sleepless nights trying to figure out what I could do to keep the space alive and well,” Lord said.
The space has been home to Prodigal Sun Productions, but with that company producing fewer and fewer shows, it became more difficult to keep the space going financially.
“It was a case of the Midnight Sun might be going, and that would a tragedy, especially with Capital Playhouse going bye-bye,” said Pug Bujeaud, TAO’s artistic director. “So we decided to step up and keep it going and vital.
“We want to do our stuff, but we also want to keep it open for the community so things like the vaudeville show can still go on.”
The company signed the lease for the space last week and is moving into action to make the decision work financially. TAO has started an online fundraising campaign at commitchange.com in hopes of raising enough to cover rent and other operating costs.
“We’re hoping we can get some people from the community to help steward the Sun,” Bujeaud said.
But to keep the space thriving, the company will need to produce more shows. “We have to start pretty darn fast because we have rent,” Bujeaud said.
In fact, the company’s first show, “Chamber Music,” opens April 25. The Arthur Kopit play, an absurdist one-act story about eight women in an asylum, was the first play the company produced.
Bujeaud is directing the play, in which each woman believes herself to be a famous woman, from Susan B. Anthony to Joan of Arc. The twist: The one who believes herself to be Amelia Earhart just might really be Earhart. (It’s set in 1939.) Bujeaud directed it for TAO 11 years ago, and in fact, this will be her fourth time.
“I love this play,” she said. “It’s short and sweet and deep. It’s funny and scary, but at the heart of it, it’s about women’s issues.”
When she realized that, she said, she knew she wanted to direct it again. And when the opportunity came for TAO to take over the Sun, the timing was perfect to revisit the show.
“Maybe this is the last time I’ll do it,” she said, “but never say never. I’ve learned that. I thought after three times I was done.”
Next up will be “Oh, Wally,” by local playwright Nick McCord, which opens June 5. Lord will direct the show, which had been planned as part of Prodigal Sun’s season.
“I think Prodigal Sun is going to dissolve,” Lord said. “I’m sure we are all ready to call it a day.”
She appreciates the chance to do a transitional project as she says goodbye to her role at the Sun, though the vaudeville show and her solo shows will continue to happen there, as will the short play festival “An Improbable Peck of Plays,” which has been a co-production of TAO and Prodigal Sun.
“I’m pretty excited about the whole thing,” Lord said. “At the same time, I’m a little sad, too. I was proud of my work with the Midnight Sun.
“I’ve always been the Midnight Sun person, so that will be hard, and it has been hard turning over the keys and so forth — the final moments.” ‘Chamber Music’
What: Theater Artists Olympia will celebrate its new home, Midnight Sun Performance Space, with a production of Arthur Kopit’s “Chamber Music,” the first play the company produced when it began 11 years ago.
When: 8 p.m. April 25-27 and May 1-3 and 8-10; 2:30 p.m. May 4
Where: Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 N. Columbia St., Olympia
Tickets: $12, available at brownpapertickets.com/event/633277 or at the door
Also: TAO is looking for support to help keep the Sun going. Details at commitchange.com/wa/olympia/theater-artists-olympia