To help resolve debt, Capital Playhouse's memories put up for sale

Downtown Olympia’s Capital Playhouse opened its doors Wednesday, giving prospective online bidders a chance to preview and inspect about 570 items up for auction.

The online auction, which is being hosted by Ehli Auctions in Tacoma, began Saturday and is set to end Thursday evening, Capital Playhouse board president Marcia Tunheim said Wednesday.

Capital Playhouse was open until 5 p.m. Wednesday; about 20 to 25 people had passed through the building before noon, she said.

Plenty is for sale, Tunheim said, including a Yamaha baby grand piano, costumes, set pieces, chairs, tables, theater seating, lighting and sound equipment.

“Everything you would expect a theater to have,” she added.

The theater, known for its musical performances, is selling the equipment because it’s in debt.

Capital Playhouse incurred $220,000 in IRS debt between 2005-2010 after federal taxes withheld from employee paychecks were never sent to the IRS.

The IRS later agreed to a settlement, reducing the debt to about $64,500, of which another $10,100 has been paid, leaving about $52,400, according to an email sent to playhouse customers last month.

Proceeds from the auction, if it can raise enough, will be used to repay the IRS, its landlord and other creditors, including employees still waiting to get paid, Tunheim said.

The auction is taking place at, a division of Ehli Auctions, owner Randy Ehli said Wednesday.

The auction midday Wednesday had generated about $15,000, he said, but that amount is expected to grow Thursday now that some bidders were able to see the merchandise firsthand.

Ehli said he expects the total to double Thursday, especially around 7 p.m., when the auction is set to close.

The auction uses “dynamic closing,” so the auction won’t end as long as there is active bidding.

It is during that extra time when active bidding can boost the total amount raised by another 25 percent, he said.

“It’ll be strong,” Ehli said about the auction, adding there is buyer interest from other theaters and schools.