From humble beginnings
Photo: Whidbey News-Times
By Harry Anderson
Whidbey Playhouse's story began on a wintry evening in February 1966, as nine Oak Harbor residents gathered at Kathryn Johnson’s School of Dance on Midway Boulevard to discuss starting a local theater company. Most had been involved in church or school productions, but they dreamed of a community-supported theater of their own. They called themselves the Whidbey Players, and that June they put on two one-act comedies at Kathryn’s dance studio: “His First Shave” and “Madam President.” Tickets were free in advance, 25 cents at the door.
That fall they moved to the Oak Harbor High School auditorium for their first full-length play, “Everybody Loves Opal.” On opening night, a cat on stage in the first act was supposed to die in the second act, but the uncooperative feline continued to howl loudly backstage, eliciting unanticipated laughs.
Over the next several years, the Whidbey Players performed in schools, the basement of a credit union, a movie theater on the nearby Navy base and anywhere else that would have them. In the late 1960s, they leased an unused church auditorium, converted it to a theater and renamed it—and themselves—the Whidbey Playhouse. Then catastrophe struck: a suspected arson fire in 1973 destroyed the building and all the props, sets and costumes inside. Back to square one.
But then the “community” really did step in. A group of civic leaders, led by long-time Whidbey News-Times Publisher Wallie Funk, believed in the value of the Playhouse and decided that the old Christian Reformed Church building on Midway Boulevard, empty and for sale, could be a theater. The price was an astronomical (for the time) $249,000, which was even more astounding given the extensive repairs and remodeling needed at the church, built in 1922.
An offer was made in 1979. Frantic fundraising and anxiety ensued, but Funk’s connections and arm-twisting eventually succeeded. The debt was paid off in August 1983, after just four years, thanks to hundreds of private and corporate contributions. Funk’s News-Times trumpeted “The Miracle on Midway” on its front page, and the Playhouse finally had a home.
Making memories since 1966
Whidbey Playhouse has been enriching the lives of the Whidbey Island community since 1966. Our shows have grown and programs expanded over the years as community members, leaders, business owners, youth, and the school district have worked collaboratively with us. Today we bring you a variety of shows from musicals to drama and comedy; tears and laughter echo in the building, and children sing and dance as parents encourage them. We are a volunteer supported 501 c3 non-profit charitable organization.
To inspire, enrich, educate and entertain our community by providing an exceptional theater experience, while keeping the Whidbey Playhouse organization healthy and vibrant!
Whidbey Playhouse Motto
Enriching the lives of our volunteers! Raising the sprits of our audience! Inspiring the hearts of our community!
Whidbey Playhouse Vision Statement
To be an essential element in the cultural lives of those in our community!
Whidbey Playhouse Diversity Statement
The Whidbey Playhouse welcomes and respects the diversity of our patrons, members, volunteers and staff. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment where one can fully express themselves without fear of discrimination because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, abilities/disabilities, size and socio-economic status.
Whidbey Playhouse Foundational Principles
To produce and deliver great live performances
To provide a creative and challenging outlet for actors and stagecraft
To offer education for individuals of all ages to develop performance and stagecraft skills
To participate and actively contribute to the well-being of our community
To be an advocate for community theater and the performing arts!
"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."