The Show Goes On: Newly Renovated Joyce Garver Theater Reopens to Community

The final piece of a $119.7 million bond approved by Camas School District voters in February 2016, was put into place this month with the official reopening of the district’s newly renovated Joyce Garver Theater. .

The neighborhood held tours of the historic theater on Wednesday, October 19, and unveiled a sign near the theater’s entrance doors honoring former Camas theater, music and arts teacher Joyce Garver, the theater’s namesake who died in May 2003.

In the theater’s spacious new lobby, musicians from Camas High School entertained the crowd while Joyce Garver’s daughter, Julie Garver, promoted the upcoming Camas High School Alumni Choir concert, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, 11 March 2023; asked visitors to share stories and memories of Joyce Garver; and solicited donations for the CHS Alumni Choir’s fundraising efforts to raise $5,000 to purchase risers for the historic theater.

Julie Garver, who sang with her mother’s Camas High choir during her own high school career in the late 1980s, said she was thrilled to help promote plans to revamp the district’s dilapidated theater school when community members reached out to her during the preparation of the school district’s 2016 facility bond.

Built in 1935, the theater was an addition to Camas High School until the 1970s when the high school was demolished. In the mid-1980s, the theater was slightly modernized, with a new entrance and some interior renovations, and served as a performance center for the school district and the greater Camas community until the district closed the building in 2009 due to security issues.

“We wanted to preserve as much of the look and feel of the historic theater as possible,” Julie Garver said last week. “And the result is phenomenal.”

While much of the renovation work focused on creating a safe and stable structure that meets the requirements of modern seismic codes, the redesign also included many items on the theater’s original fan wish lists: more toilets for theater goers; ramps and an elevator to make the theater more accessible to people with disabilities; a flexible lobby where community members can congregate before shows and during intermissions; a classroom that doubles as a green room; a 700-seat auditorium; safer rigging systems on stage; and an updated control room with new sound and light systems.

“When I was a student, (the theater) had this little lobby with low ceilings,” Julie Garver said last week, pointing to the theater’s newly renovated lobby with its high ceilings, large windows and hardwood floors. . “It’s a performing arts center we can be proud of.”

Camas music teachers who attended the theater’s October 19 reopening event agreed with Garver’s assessment. Skyridge Middle School music teachers Brenda Sappington and Mishele Mays and Liberty Middle School band principal Greg Henion said they were delighted to have their students perform in the newly renovated theater and praised the new systems lighting and sound.

The one thing music teachers would have liked to see included in the new theater that’s missing is a cyclorama, or a large curtain or wall that creates an even surface at the back of the stage – allowing lighting designers to create illusions during a performance and protect the movement of performers who might need to walk across the stage unseen.

Other than that, however, educators at Camas said they were pleased with the many upgrades to the theater’s auditorium and control room.

“The sound is so good,” Henion said of the new theater.

“It’s exciting to see him up and running,” added Sappington.

Educators from Liberty and Skyridge are already planning to stage their spring musicals — “James and the Giant Peach” in April and “Annie” in May — inside the newly renovated theater.

And while the space is a perfect location for performances by Camas School District students, the theater is also designed for community events.

Julie Garver said last week that she hopes the theater named after her mother will once again host community concerts like those the Camas Performing Arts Series presented inside the theater four or five times a year.

“We’ve had so many fun shows here,” Julie Garver said. “And hopefully we can revive the community concert series.”

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