In yet another blow to Portland’s theater community, the Portland Civic Theater Guild has announced it will be dissolved. The guild has supported Portland theater for decades through readings, fundraising and education initiatives.
“It wasn’t financial decision,” Adair Chappell, the guild’s president, tells WW. “COVID really forced our hand to close. Given that our audience was elderly, they were reluctant to come back. Just as our audience was getting older, so was our membership, and producing readings at 10 am on a Tuesday morning was no longer feasible. We were a small but mighty all-volunteer organization that just didn’t have the people power to sustain.”
While the guild will be gone by the end of 2023, two organizations will be supported by its endowment funds at the Oregon Community Foundation: Oregon Children’s Theatre (which will be the beneficiary of the $125,400 Leslie O. Fulton Fund) and the local writers group LineStorm Playwrights (which will benefit from the $33,000 Portland Civic Theatre Fund).
“We are very confident that with the money we are giving to OCT and LineStorm our missions will continue,” Chappell says. “For that we are extremely grateful.”
The Portland Civic Theatre Guild was founded in 1958 by Mary Brand, but grew out of the Portland Civic Theatre, one of the oldest and largest community theater in the nation (it was founded in 1926).
Chappell laments what the guild could have become if not for the pandemic, noting that the organization had been looking to expand its horizons.
“It was a shame because right before the pandemic hit, we decided to switch our focus to new plays,” she says. “During the 11 years of the guild’s New Play Award program, we had collected a huge body of plays by local writers. Obviously, this never happened.”