Opened in 1993, The Midnight Sun Performance Space has hosted all manner of plays, performances, variety shows and concerts that have featured names such as Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney and Modest Mouse.
At the end of the month, the Sun is scheduled to go dark. Theater Artists Olympia, the non-profit theater company that moved into the space three years ago, can no longer afford the rent — and the building is for sale.
But there are a few more chances to visit the space. The last show scheduled in the Sun is Lord Franzannian’s Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show, which started in the Sun in 2007. Theater Artists Olympia also will throw the space a farewell party on Oct. 27.
The closing won’t mean the end of TAO, but it represents the loss of a small venue in downtown Olympia — seating about 50 people — that allowed for experimental theater and all-ages concerts.
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“It’s where I’ve done all of my storytelling shows over the years,” said Elizabeth Lord, the emcee and producer of the vaudeville show and the Sun’s manager from 2003 to 2013. “I can’t think of an alternative venue in Olympia that even comes close. It’s a professional theater, with lights and sound and raised seating and accessibility.
“I am very, very sad.”
Over the years, The Midnight Sun hosted events produced by K Records, the Olympia Film Society, Olympia Family Theater, the Olympia Experimental Music Festival, Big Show City, The Evergreen State College, Saint Martin’s University and South Puget Sound Community College. It was home to Artesian Theatre Sightings and later to Prodigal Sun Productions, of which Lord was a part.
“A lot of amazing people performed there,” said Sky Myers, who created the theater with partner Barbara Zelano. “Those were such fun days.”
On Facebook, Theater Artists Olympia announced its departure from the Sun as a certainty. But in a Monday interview, TAO board president Michael Christopher was hoping to find a way to hold on, whether through a partnership with other theater companies who could share the space and the rent, or through donations.
“If we had 100 people donating $10, that would pay the rent,” he said.
Such plans look at best like temporary measures, though. The building, which also houses Jack’s Shoe Repair and The Wiggle Room, is for sale for $550,000. The listing on greenrealty.com notes that it’s a “great redevelopment opportunity in the heart of downtown, close to waterfront.”
With a theater of its own or without, TAO will continue to produce plays, though it’s uncertain when and where the next show will occur.
“We were hoping to do something in December,” Christopher said. “At this point, it’s not very likely that’s going to happen.”
The company, known for its flair for the unusual and often the blackly comic, is familiar with a nomadic existence. It had no home theater for its first dozen years, though even when the company’s productions moved from space to space, the Sun was one of its mainstays.
“We have our gypsy roots,” Christopher said. “With the right show, you can go anywhere and put on theater.
“We’re going to regroup and figure out where we want to go — if we want to go back to being a gypsy theater or if we want to explore options for getting another space.”
Lord also faces uncertainty. She produced much of her work in The Midnight Sun and had a new solo storytelling show scheduled to open there in March.
Her history with the theater goes back to 1998, when she performed in Sky Myers’ “Boomtown,” the last big production Myers and Zelano did in the Sun after they created the theater from a former lens grinding facility.
The idea was to have a do-it-yourself theater, playwright Myers said in a Monday phone interview.
“We didn’t want to have to worry about commercial success,” she said. “We just wanted to be as daring as we could with the work.”
If they never made money, she and Zelano — then a couple as well as co-managers of the theater — succeeded in making the theater pay for itself.
When the Sun opened, rent was $400 a month. Zelano and Myers operated the theater as a cooperative, spending only as much on each show as they could raise from ad sales or sponsors and dividing proceeds among cast and crew.
“Some nights, that would be $10 each,” Myers said. “We’d go to Ben Moore’s and spend the 10 bucks on a drink.
“Those were such fun days,” she added. “It makes me happy to think about some of the things that happened there early on.”
Midnight Sun farewell party
What: Theater Artists Olympia will celebrate The Midnight Sun, where they’ve produced shows since 2014, and raise money for future productions with food and drink, a silent auction, a cake walk and more.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 27
Where: The Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 Columbia St. NW, Olympia
Tickets: $15 at the door
More information: olytheater.com