The History of Port Gamble and The Performing Arts
From the beginning, arts and entertainment have been a vital part of Port Gamble's identity. During the early years, the town had its own Shakespeare Society bands, and theater groups met and performed in the old schoolhouse. All of the arts, entertainment, and community events were then held here. The building we occupy was built in 1906.
From the 1880s to the 1930s, when Vaudeville was king, producers from Seattle, like John Considine, Alexander Pantages, and John Cort, would send their artists on a circuit that included entertaining the families of Port Gamble. One such act was Adeline and Olea Cochran. Their mother, acting as their agent, had these violin virtuosos touring and performing in Seattle, Vancouver, and Port Gamble. Their mother was also friends with “America’s Sweetheart,” actress Mary Pickford.
When the movies came, Port Gamble converted its theater to offer both silent films and “talkies.” They converted a portion of the balcony into a projection booth. This projection booth was in use until 1958 when the last film was shown. While exploring the projection booth when we first moved in, we found 2 projectors, a bottle of acetone, and a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes next to the bottle. We have always wondered about that.
From 1958 to 2011, the theater was used only on occasion for local community events. The theater could be used only under strict rules, as the fire marshal and county had concerns.
A Brief History of Our Original Troupe, The Roving Players
In 1989, The Roving Players of Verona got its start when a group of theater lovers sat together sipping coffee (it is the PNW after all) and shared their “theater war stories” at a local Kingston restaurant. Under the direction of Bill Cox, the Father of North Kitsap Theater, they traveled the West Coast performing short plays, mainly at Medieval Fairs.
While branching out to perform at other venues, the Verona part of the moniker was dropped. Over the years, The Roving Players have performed at North Kitsap landmarks including Dickenson’s Restaurant, Karsten's, The Kingston Community Center, The Indianola Clubhouse, Wolfle Elementary, and Frank Raab Park.
A Simple Walk in the Park That Changed Everything
Since the founding of The Roving Players, our members sought a permanent home. On a beautiful September afternoon in 2010, Glenna Snively, one of our founding members, was walking her collie in Port Gamble, when she happened upon Shana Smith, Manager of the Olympic Property Group who managed the town.
At the time, The Roving Players were in talks with another venue for their annual production of A Christmas Carol. Glenna and Shana had a discussion about bringing the production to Port Gamble for the Country Christmas weekend. During the conversation, Glenna mentioned that The Roving Players were having scheduling issues with the other site. Glenna also mentioned that even though the troupe was called The Roving Players, most of the troupe was feeling too “old” to rove anymore! Then Shana said, “Would you like to have your show in the theater in town?” Glenna thought, “I can not say, YES! fast enough.”
There was a lot to do and little time to do it. With Shana’s help, The Roving Players were able to secure the needed permits from the county. The fire marshal gave their blessing, meaning after a fire inspection, we needed to have a fire department official in the audience during the shows and that The Roving Players could only seat 75 per show.
The partnership of Kitsap County, the Olympic Property Group, and The Roving Players made that year’s production of A Christmas Carol a great success. It was by far the best present of all for that year!
Shortly after the close of the show, board members from The Roving Players, and officials from Pope Resources sat down to discuss re-opening the theater permanently. Plans were drawn, the county was consulted, permits were gathered, and improvements were put in that allowed for the rebirth of the new Port Gamble Theater.
The Port Gamble Theater opened in August 2011 with The Mousetrap, and in December 2011 with a radio production of It’s a Wonderful Life. Both opened to sold-out audiences. The next year included productions of The Good Doctor, Anne of Green Gables, Twelfth Night, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
We feel very honored to be an active part of the theater’s rich history and to provide our
patrons with classic stories that reflect timeless truths.