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Prairie Pulse

Group works toward encore for Kooskia Opera House

True to any theatrical performance, the fate of Kooskia’s Old Opera House reads like a script still in the writing process.

Setting the scene: The Old Opera House sits on Kooskia’s Main Street, a two-story building with a century-long history. Originally built in 1912, it was purchased by George Trenary - current owner Mike Graves’ great-grandfather - in 1916.

Over the course of time, the structure – or parts of it – has been used as a theatrical venue, a hardware and furniture store, a funeral parlor, classrooms, toy store and storage. In 1994, Mike and his wife, Marcia, restored it as an opera house.

Seeking more time with family, the Graves’ recently met with individuals interested in taking over ownership and maintaining the site as a performing arts venue.

Enter stage left: (protagonist) Gloria Taylor and the Old Opera House cultural committee. Taylor, of Harpster, made an offer to buy the building for $199,000.

Enter stage right: the unnamed antagonist, which for clarification is defined as a person who actively opposes. Since Taylor’s group made its offer for the building, another buyer stepped forward seeking purchase of the Opera House.

The plot thickens as the Graves, forced to choose between two offers, are now asking Taylor to raise funds by June 1 to purchase the building. In theatrical terms, I’d say the story has reached its climax – the crisis point in the plot.

Taylor and her cast of characters’ scramble to sell shares in a fund-raising effort. Taylor and Cindy Lane say they have met with local businesses about potential interest as shareholders supporting a community center.

The group also is considering a crowdfunding campaign through the website Indiegogo. Taylor said she is working toward a goal of $500,000. This would purchase the building, cover some minor maintenance issues and get the facility up and running again, she said.

“Community response has been very positive,” Taylor said.

Taylor has a vision of reinvigorating the theatre as a performing arts center. But she also sees its potential as a dance studio and other artistic endeavors. She also envisions the building hosting a myriad of community events.

While it might seem Taylor is cast as the lead in this “performance,” the true star of the show is her daughter, Misty Dawn Taylor. Misty grew up in Kooskia and was cast in several of the Christmas programs at the Opera House. It was the Graves’ fond memories of performing with Misty, Gloria said, that locked in this partnership.

How this act will conclude remains to be seen, the ending not yet written. What remains certain is a tale is being spun that eventually leads to the Old Opera House’s next act. Just as any savvy theatre enthusiast knows, if the show must go on, there must be an investment.

Those interested in buying a “ticket” to support the cast and crew with the cultural committee can contact Gloria at 983-0314 or Cindy Lane at 983-3875.

Laurie Chapman writes about the people, places and events bringing the prairie to life in the weekly blog, Prairie Pulse. If you have a suggestion, contact Laurie by email at lchapman@idahocountyfreepress.com or by phone at 208-983-1200.

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