Five times a year, Village Theatre packs up and heads to Everett

EVERETT — What does it take to get Mary Poppins, her umbrella, carpet bag and a gang of dancing chimney sweeps to the Everett Performing Arts Center?

Five times each year, Village Theatre moves its musical productions from its home theater in Issaquah to Everett for another month of performances.

Each move blows her mind, said Sherrill Dryden, the Village employee who manages the performing arts center.

“I marvel at how well it all goes,” she said.

When the curtain fell Sunday on the final matinee performance of “Mary Poppins” at the Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah, the stage crew was poised to strike the set. Six moving trucks waited, ready to take the entire show 45 minutes north to Everett, where it opens a month-long run tonight.

Weeks before, dozens of Village employees met to plan the logistics, which involve moving scenic backdrops, sets, lights, sound equipment, props and costumes. The plan is detailed and all the puzzle pieces must fit. Whatever ends up at the back of the first truck has to be the first thing unloaded and installed.

The loaded trucks arrived in Everett in the wee hours of Monday.

At 8 a.m. the electricians got to work, followed at 9 a.m. by Local 15 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the riggers at 2 p.m. The sound crew arrived at 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by the lighting and sound folks. The director who makes Mary Poppins fly on stage tested his equipment Thursday, right before the technical (and only) rehearsal before Friday’s opening night performance.

Jay Markham, who’s been with Village for 15 years, is the nonprofit company’s production manager. He and many others worked on producing the “magic” that Mary Poppins brings to the story.

“Each show is different, with its own set of challenges, tricks and schedules,” he said. “But when we get to Everett we have the same amount of time — just Sunday night to Friday morning — to get it all done.”

The sets are built in Village Theatre’s stagecraft studio in Issaquah and are designed to fit both venues.

Master stage carpenter Stacey Garrett said the crew and cast work hard to make productions in Everett as delightful as they are in Issaquah.

Dryden expects the show to sell out during the run in Everett. In fact, the best ticket availability remaining is Wednesday evenings and some nights during the final week.

“I think people who attend shows in Everett really hunger for what we bring,” Markham said. “We feel appreciated and we love our Everett audiences. On top of that, many of us, like Sherrill Dryden, live in Snohomish County. And the dressing rooms here are so much bigger.”

In the late 1990s, the city of Everett hired Lanie McMullin to reinvigorate the success of the performing arts center, said Everett’s cultural arts manager, Carol Thomas.

McMullin, now the city’s economic development director, talked Village Theatre into staging performances at the center.

“It’s been a win-win for the city and for us,” said Dryden, who also books use of the center to organizations such as the Everett Chorale and Olympic Ballet and for fundraisers for city departments such as the animal shelter and the public library.

“Village has a contract to manage the center, but we also pay rent here,” Dryden said.

“Since 1998, Village has had partnerships with local business owners, such as those with the restaurants, hotels and dry cleaners. We are an integral part of the economy and the community,” she said. “Village has been very much a part of the cultural transformation of Everett. I love being able to work in my community and be part of the vitality of this city.”

Thomas agreed. On performance nights, if you don’t have a reservation, you can forget snagging a table at Lombardi’s.

“The fact that ‘Mary Poppins’ is nearly sold out and it just opened is remarkable,” Thomas said. “Village does amazing, world-class productions. They have cast members who have worked on Broadway and plays they’ve created that have gone on to Broadway.

“When I go to a Village show, I always turn around to see the smiles on the faces of the audience.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; Twitter: @galefiege.

By the numbers

Run of Village Theatre’s “Mary Poppins” in Everett: Jan. 9 to Feb. 8

Amount spent in Everett by Village and its patrons each year: $6 million

City revenue: $260,000

State and local sales tax and license revenue: $330,000

Number of Everett season subscribers in 2002: 3,300

Number of subscribers this season: 7,342

Seats in Everett Performing Arts Center: 512

Single ticket cost range: $47 to $67

“Mary Poppins” performances in Everett: 36

Cast members: 27, primarily Actors’ Equity

Months they are employed with the show: 4

Orchestra members: 15

Stage crew: 15

Props: 400

Set pieces: 25

Scenery backdrop curtains: 3

Costumes: 200

Costume repair stitchers: 7

Wig master and assistants: 4

— City of Everett, Village Theatre

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