Ninety years and counting
What: Open House and Birthday Party
When: 3 pm Fri., May. 5
Where: Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
When I got the news the Mount Baker Theatre was on the cusp of celebrating its 90th birthday, I spent a few minutes trying to recall all of the events I’d attended at the venerable performing arts space since I moved to Bellingham in the late 1990s.
In addition to viewing comedic genius from the likes of Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho, Paula Poundstone, Lewis Black, Tig Notaro, and Brian Regan, I’ve seen countless MBT Rep plays, modern dance mastery from MOMIX, a small-animal circus, Anniepalooza, and plenty of local renditions of The Nutcracker. I’ve also judged an international comedy competition, performed sketch and improv in the Walton Theatre, and danced in the aisles on more than one occasion.
Music-wise, I’ve witnessed the Violent Femmes rock the space, Lyle Lovett croon for the crowd, and Lucinda Williams return to the stage for not one, but two, encores. I’ve also seen the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra fill the 1,509 seats in the main theater, and enjoyed a plethora of local and internationally acclaimed musicals. I wasn’t able to score tickets, but when Pearl Jam opened their first tour in 18 months with a 2000 show at the Mount Baker Theatre, I recall being amazed at the alacrity with which they disappeared.
I could go on, but as my memory expands and the list gets longer, suffice it to say that the MBT has been at the forefront of my entertainment options for as long as I’ve made Bellingham my home. If you’ve lived in the area for any length of time, there’s a good chance you have your own list of memorable moments—and they’re probably way different than mine.
Whether your inclination is for classical music, rowdy standup comedy, silent films accompanied by organ music, local poetry readings in the Encore Room, citizen activism, big-name authors, watching jazz legends or supporting area youth that perform as part of the traveling Missoula Children’s Theatre, one and all are invited to a Community Open House and Birthday Party starting at 3pm Fri., May 5 at the Commercial Street hub.
Although the official birthday was April 29—which was the date of the first opening night in 1927—cake will still be on the menu, as will beverages, historical information from tour docents, two screenings of a video project about the theater’s history from muralist Lanny Little, and a short public presentation by local dignitaries. And, since the event coincides with the monthly Art Walk, the building will stay open until 8pm for after-hours tours.
While you’re there, inquire about why the theater was slated for demolition in the 1980s—and how it was saved from the wrecking ball—and keep a lookout for Judy, the resident ghost. And, by talking to other patrons about their most memorable experiences at the Mount Baker Theatre, perhaps you’ll remember your complete list. That’s what I’m hoping happens with me.
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