Article released August 2022.
BREMERTON – Ann Bonner used to drive past the vacant storefront in the Sheridan Village complex on Lebo Boulevard with great regularity.
And every time, the place – incongruous among the healthcare facilities, private offices and other small businesses that surround it – would call out to her.
“It would say, ‘There needs to be an arts studio here!’” said Bonner. “Then one day I was driving by and there was a for rent sign on it, and I figured the time had come.”
For some, it might not have seemed like the most advantageous time to fire up a theatre-slash-arts entity, what with companies around the county – and the country – still licking their wounds from more than a year of COVID-19 shutdowns and cancellations.
But for Bonner – a former theatre kid who studied music and drama at the University of Washington and was involved with several different Kitsap troupes before marrying and having a family – that for rent sign was all the sign she needed.
As it turned out, there was a need. The place soon became alive with classes, rehearsals and lessons. Enoch hosted – and still hosts – a Dungeons and Dragons club for all ages on Monday evenings. The Changing Scene Theatre Northwest, a one-time Kitsap company who in recent years has called Tacoma’s Dukes Bay Theater home, has returned to stage two shows – including the world premiere of Darren Hembd’s “Roll / Play” – in Enoch’s tiny performance space.
An original musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” cooked up by a new company called Artists at Large, has used rehearsal space at Enoch to prepare for their August 20th opening at Port Orchard’s Western Washington Center for the Arts. CSTOCK, the family-oriented troupe that operated for years at the Silverdale Community Center but have been without a permanent accommodation for years, also rehearse there.
When it’s not a lounge for between-scenes actors, the “Green Room” will be a classroom. And the Kitsap Children’s Museum will move in once a month (second Saturdays) for a day of activities.
Enoch also will produce its own shows. “Robin Hood,” which Bonner said will feature a mix of adult and younger actors, opens a five-weekend run on September 1st.
The relationship with Changing Scene Theatre Northwest is special to Bonner, who said she used to “sneak out” of the house to go see shows at their old headquarters behind the since-closed Orowheat Bakery outlet in East Bremerton.
“When I decided I was going to do this, I really wanted to go to Pavlina Morris (Changing Scene’s artistic director) and ask a lot of questions. I’ve admired her work so much. When I was trying to figure out how to use this space, she was really helpful with arranging the different areas.”
If you used to attend shows at Changing Scene Theatre Northwest, your sitzmark might be on one or more of the chairs in Enoch’s performance space. Elsewhere, the place is pleasantly appointed with antique furniture (“You can pick this stuff up really cheap,” Bonner marveled.) and four – count ‘em, four – pianos.
“I wanted it to not just be some empty space,” Bonner said. “I wanted to create a place that made you feel welcome, made you feel important.”
She said she realizes that Enoch is a huge undertaking. But with COVID grudgingly edging toward its endemic days, and the always-vibrant Kitsap arts and entertainment scene roaring back to life, she said she feels like it’s poised to be a necessary home and haven.
“That’s the vision,” Bonner said. “That’s what I saw happening.”
Seems like that vision – from a passing car out on Lebo – was prescient.
More information on classes and other activities at Enoch City Arts Studio, and ticket information for “Robin Hood,” are at enochcityarts.org.