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Firehouse Arts Center seeks bookings through December

A few weeks ago, I, along with many others received an email from Matt Christman, founder of the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven, which he opened in 2005 with his wife, Alona, and has been trying to sell since April 2014.

Here’s what he wrote:

“With fall fast approaching and no buyer as yet for the Firehouse, I wanted to let everyone know we will be guaranteeing bookings through the first couple weeks of December. As usual, all bookings are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

As you may also know my hope is to see the Firehouse into other capable hands (hands we hope will keep the Firehouse a community performing arts center as it serves the community so well in this capacity) but since that hasn't happened, Alona and I are pleased to keep the facility open to teachers, performing artists and arts presenters to produce their art for the benefit of the community.

Also, if you or anyone you now is interested in the purchasing the Firehouse, please feel free to have them contact me.

Looking forward to having a Firehouse full of fine artists teaching and performing and presenting this late summer, fall and early winter.

All the very best, Matt and Alona Christman

As a frequent paying member of the audience for the dance, music, theater and other events at the Firehouse, I thought it worthwhile to email a few people who either have coordinated events there or who, like me, appreciate the small venue as a community resource.”

I was overwhelmed with responses.

Here are a few, with more to continue next week in this column.

Lizanne Schader, of The Neighborhood Playhouse:

“’The perfect venue for young audiences’” is what teachers, parents and grandparents have said after every one of our productions at the Firehouse. The proximity of audience to actors creates an intimacy that encourages engagement and the way the seats have been arranged allows every single audience member to see every single thing on stage. Even the very small. Because our plays are directed at families and the young people of our community, this is very important to us.

The Firehouse has been TNP’s venue for our spring shows since June of 2011. This past spring we had to cancel our performance as we didn’t know if the theater would be available to rent – we need at least six months in advance for marketing, granting, etc.

Our audiences are already missing what they’ve come to count on in the spring during National Book Week as our shows are always adaptations of classic children’s literature. The hole this has created is deep and continues to get deeper and wider the more you realize how many theaters, dance companies and community events will be affected by the loss of this gem.

From our first rental back in 2005, Matt and Alona have worked with us so attentively, in order for our productions (whether for the public or classrooms) to be as polished as possible. We have almost always met with them after each event, to figure out what will work even better “the next time.”

There has to be a next time! The Firehouse has been a unique community hub because of all the work they put into the building, including the rehearsal space, the performance elements, the café and the garden space.

As a citizen of Bellingham, I have been attending the Firehouse for all sorts of events over the years: My daughter’s flute recitals, dance concerts, community meetings, the “12 Minutes Max Dance Festival, theater, music and art openings in the gallery.

It is unthinkable that this exciting venue might just go away. Not only will at least a dozen arts organizations be homeless, Bellingham audiences will not have access to such a thriving art scene.”

Scott Henderson and Martin Bray, producers of musical theater:

“One of the reasons we were drawn to move to Fairhaven five years ago was The Firehouse. It clearly energized and united the neighborhood and encompassed the larger community. We have experienced off-Broadway shows (Sherry Glaser in “Oh My Goddess”); world-class chamber music (Bellingham Music Club); dance in all forms; theater (”Mark Twain in Fairhaven” four times, The Neighborhood Playhouse productions); art demonstrations; storytelling and book readings. The theater is unique for its intimacy, perfect sight-lines, versatility and accessibility.

When we produced “A Broadway Cabaret” in 2014, we chose The Firehouse as our venue, selling-out two nights. It was a joy to play a musical there, especially since it has one of the best Steinway pianos in town.

Now that we are producing “A Swell Party with Cole Porter” this fall, we are grateful that The Firehouse is keeping its doors open through the end of the year. It is very sad to think that we may be one of the last productions there, unless a buyer will continue to operate the venue as a theater and community resource. A great city like Bellingham deserves a performance home like The Firehouse.”

Andrea Rackl, pianist and founder of The Amadeus Project

“With all three of us in our household being involved in either music or dance, we have had a lot of interactions with the Firehouse and all it has to offer. We have attended countless dance and music performances there. It provides a unique, important, and exciting opportunity for the audience to really be close to the performers. I believe this is a vital means of keeping the performing arts alive in today's culture!

We have also rented the Firehouse for our students to perform in. It's a wonderful setting for studio recitals not just because it's intimate enough that we can really fill it up, but also because it's a real professional and artistic setting for them perform in.

I have performed there myself. I annually tour with a show called Up Close and Personal. What would be a more perfect venue for these solo and chamber music concerts than the Firehouse? Ever since The Amadeus Project closed, there is nothing in our community to compare.

With a Steinway grand piano, beautiful wood floors, and no bad seat in the house, the Firehouse is a favorite of local and regional performers and attendees alike. I hope very much that we can find a way to sustain it into the future.”

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com.

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