As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Bobwhite Theatre is entering a new phase. After many ups and downs, the building’s new manager, Nick Haas, hopes to return the theatre to its former glory. Here’s what he had to say during a recent discussion:
Q: What is your connection with the neighborhood, and how did you get involved with the Bob White?
A: “I met Nick Storie early summer of 2012, when I heard about the Bobwhite though a friend; we were looking for a great space for the Portland Prankster’s Ball. When I walked in for the first time, I fell in love with the down trodden beauty of the place. At that time they were near complete for the reopening, but signs still lingered from every area around the building. I wanted to rent it and The Wurlitzer Room then; But even though the ball was a big success, at that time, I couldn’t afford to make the move. Over that time, I wandered around the Foster-Powell area, and even though I had passed by many times before, once taking a closer look, I saw just how much great potential was on Foster and how it still reflected Portland’s hard days. I felt like, in a way, the Theatre was a sort of Poster Child for Foster and its rebirth; I wanted to see that happen. There are so many great lil places here, and most of Portland seems to overlook that much like I had before.
“But in January of 2014, I got the chance to take on The Wurlitzer Room and quickly set about putting together shows and using the main floor for Automotive Repair during the week. Sadly, shortly thereafter, the Fire Marshal said we could no longer hold events in The Wurlitzer Room until all unpermitted work was fixed. I’m currently working with Nick (Storie) on getting it to 2014 code. But when Pulsar and Alex’s team stepped down, I knew it was time to get to work. I know I can bring The Bobwhite back up to its former glory as the event hub of Foster, featuring a wide array of performances from all walks of life.”
Q: What will your role be in managing the theater, and what can people expect from the venue moving forward (i.e. what kind of entertainment, music, theater, etc)?
A: “Right now we’re busy doing little odds and ends to make the place cleaner, nicer, and friendly for all ages. I don”t plan on putting together too many concerts myself at this time, but I’m mostly renting the theatre to promoters and other individuals for events. Once its rolling along a bit better we’ll start bringing Jazz, Rock, Folk, & Blues to the Bobwhite. We are also currently working with the WCWC West Coast Wrestling Connection, who puts on quite the show; May 31st they’ll have Jake “The Snake” Roberts in the house. They also film each event for broadcast on a local Portland station. We are also working with The Oregon Donors, a local theatre group on a monthly basis. We have hopes of bringing back The Bobwhite Community Night and I’m also in the early stages of planning a benefit for Portland Public Schools that will not only be in the Bobwhite, but will incorporate all the little venues on Foster.”
Q: There was a lot of initial excitement about the rebirth of the Bob White a couple years ago. Some of that excitement has waned a little due to questionable management, perceived unfulfilled promises, and perhaps some unrealistic expectations from the community. Do you feel the theater can be a benefit to the community, and how so?
A: “Yes, indeed there was, and even though the best intentions were there, the past year hasn’t been a good one for The Bobwhite. We hope to change the public opinion and wash away the current stigma that seems to be in place. I want to run a community-first oriented venue for all ages and walks of life—not a nitch oriented fun house. And in defense of Nick and Pulsar, again, the best intentions were there; no one fully understood the uphill battle of getting this place off the ground. It’s a full time commitment most were not ready for. As for unrealistic expectations, all I ask for is the support of the community; if they like what what’s going on and are understanding that: there’s no “How To” book on ventures like this, there will be struggles and growing pains, and all I can do is fix the issues as they come up and do my best.”
Q: If you could project into the future, what do you envision for the Bob White 2-3 years from now?
A: “We all can see the potential in The Bobwhite & the Wurlitzer. I would like to see it blossom into not only one of the best places for events in South East Portland, but the coolest. We hope to refurbish the theatre to reflect its hay days from the 20’s 30’s and 40’s. A lot of work and research has been going on already. I’ve even been talking with Robert Allen, former owner and manager of The Bobwhite from 1962 to 1969, when it was a Western themed venue, in the hopes of not only documenting its history, but finding a way to reflect its past into the future. We will be installing a new HD digital projector so we can run movies again; a fresh coat of paint inside and out; Miles Thonpson will be providing one of the best sound systems in Portland for events; and here shortly, we hope to add classy theatre curtains to jazz up the place and help with the natural reverb of the room. I want the people of Portland to know in the future, if it’s a show at the bobwhite it must be good.”
Q: People are excited about the potential of the Bob White. How can the community get involved in restoring it to its full potential?
A: “I’ll be putting together a series of events to help raise awareness, as well as funds, to bring the place back to its true beauty here in the next few months. Right now we are facing a 20 to 50 thousand dollar investment just to fix The Wurlitzer Room. Sadly, Dale Haskin built the enter inside, 2nd and 3rd stories without a permit. And even though it was to code, the city doesn’t know if its safe or not. Any contractor will tell you it’s well-built, but without record of how it was built at the city, the public is not welcome in the room until it’s deemed safe. If anything, we need the community’s support; come to the future events at the Bobwhite, have a drink and a good time, then tell your friends! That’s all I’m asking—for you, the patron, to have a great time.”
Q: Can you give us a sneak peak at coming events for the summer?
A: “We have signed the WCWC to a 6-month contract, first Saturdays every month. The Oregon Donors will be here monthly, as well. At this time (since I’ve only had management of the Theatre since the first of May), that’s all I have locked in. I hope to bring lots of music, theatre, film, and good times on the road ahead. We are working on bringing some big-name acts, but you’ll just have to keep and eye on the marquee to find out.”
Much thanks to Nick for taking the time to meet with us. We’ll all look forward to a new and improved Bobwhite Theatre.