In 1976 the City of Yreka, with much community fund-raising support, constructed a public building that its citizens could take pride in. It was the Yreka Community Theater, at the end of North Oregon Street, next to Yreka High School.
It’s a beautiful structure, but …
The city’s current website advertises the Yreka Community Theater as “the premier location for the presentation of artistic talents as well as an ideal setting for seminars and ceremonies. With auditorium seating for 304 people, a spacious stage and lighting and sound systems, the Theater will make your presentation a production to remember!”
But … what?
But … it is not functional, and hasn’t been for four years. The last concert in the theater was February 22, 2020. Since then, the “presentation of artistic talents” has had to find other venues, such as the Avery Theatre in Etna and Yreka’s Preservation Hall (the old Episcopal church). Yreka High School’s excellent drama and music departments have created their own performing arts facility in the Knapp Street gym.
What essentially shut the Community Theater down in 2020 was the Covid pandemic, but that doesn’t explain why it hasn’t reopened.
So … the Yreka Community Theater is sitting there … unused.
Sure, it’s an aging building, and things wear out. The roof. The siding. And now the HVAC system. But those things can be fixed. Etna’s Avery Theatre was built in 1948, and has a full agenda of activities scheduled for this spring and summer.
It’s not for lack of resources. One such resource is the Red Scarf Society for The Performing Arts (RSSPA), now celebrating its twentieth anniversary. A primary objective of this non-profit organization is to support the Yreka Community Theater. Its mission statement declares its goal “to serve as a support group for the Yreka Community Theater which is owned by the City of Yreka.”
A few years ago, the then Yreka City Manager considered giving away the Community Theater to the high school, but the Council chose not to. Maybe they should have.
What contributions has the Red Scarf Society made for the Community Theater? Well, here’s a partial list: The sound system, speakers and sound board. Landscaping. The “Voices of the Siskiyous” boulder project. New siding. Acoustic baffles. New furniture for the lobby. Most of the costs of these projects were funded by grants that RSSPA facilitated in obtaining, but a significant amount was directly raised by RSSPA members.
The Red Scarf Society stands ready to provide whatever support is needed to create a functional HVAC system. But it doesn’t own the building. The city does.
In fairness to the city’s council and administration, the city has many other significant issues to deal with, such as homelessness, something no one thought much about twenty years ago. Operating a small city like Yreka in today’s world is problematic. And maybe maintaining a “premier location for the presentation of artistic talents as well as an ideal setting for seminars and ceremonies” isn’t high on the list of priorities. But it should be.
When you have an organization such as the Red Scarf Society standing by to provide the resources to protect and preserve a valuable city asset, it’s a slap in the faces of the many volunteers who have worked hard to make it happen. RSSPA’s most recent presentation, February 4th, was Adam Swanson, a wonderful ragtime and early jazz pianist. It was great; but the venue, Preservation Hall, was jammed. We need the Community Theater. RSSPA books performances such as Adam Swanson many months in advance. It’s difficult to do this when the organization doesn’t know when or if its best venue will be up and running again. The city needs to do its part.
I sent the draft of this story to Yreka City Manager Jason Ledbetter, and asked for his input. Below is his response.
Thanks for sending along. My commentary on this subject is the following.
Although the City of Yreka staff is currently working on a number of projects, the Community Theater still remains in the upper tier of priority. The Major issue with the HVAC system has been the complicated design and fix, rather than a simple replacement. The city has unfortunately put this project out to bid via the Request for Proposal (RFP) process 3 times with either non-responsive bids or no bids responding. After the 3 non-responsive RFP bids the city was advised by prior legal counsel to move forward with direct contracting. As the city worked through this process the Council had changed legal representation. In December of 2023 the City staff had prepared a contract to directly hire the HVAC company to begin this work, but the new attorney disagreed with the prior attorney as he felt the scope of work was altered to the point that an RFP needed to be reissued. We are currently creating this new RFP with staff and PACE engineering to go back out to bid in the coming weeks.
As far as the history before my start date in January of 2022 I am not sure what the priority of the last City Manager and Interim City manager were as this all started in 2018 is my understanding. I am certainly aware of the frustration with members of the community and don’t think they should feel any different than they do. We intend to have the HVAC replaced and the new roof put on, and the theater reopened. I think your article and Joan’s presentation on 2.6.24 at Council only helps to bring this project to fruition.
City of Yreka | City Manager
Jason’s reference in the last sentence, above, to “Joan’s presentation on 2.6.24” refers to a power point program that Joan Favero presented to the city council last week celebrating Red Scarf’s twentieth anniversary and informing the council of the role it has played in bringing quality performing arts to the community.
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