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Tillamook Coast Life Blog

Roll out the red carpet for Riverbend Players

The joy of community theater is the chance to see friends and neighbors stretch beyond their comfort zone and inhabit personalities the polar opposite of their own.

A pharmacist becomes a pirate; a police officer belts out Sondheim; a librarian gets to tap dance.

Audiences and actors get to let their hair down and live in someone else’s skin.

It’s probably why Jack Nicholson called acting: “everybody’s favorite second job.”

Everyone can act. Manzanita Mayor Mike Scott had a role in 2016 production of The Odd Couple courtesy Riverbend Players
Everyone can act. Manzanita Mayor Mike Scott had a role in 2016 production of The Odd Couple.

Seeking to build on that joy Riverbend Players – a community theater group based in Nehalem – first appeared on stage in 2005. Thanks to a dedicated group of theater enthusiasts and volunteers, they began a more robust schedule of productions in 2007, including staging plays and dinner theater.

As enthusiasm for local theater grew, Riverbend Players saw the need for a more dedicated, permanent space to perform.

“That eventually morphed into the current performing arts center at North County Recreation District (NCRD),” said Tom Cocklin, board president of Riverbend Players.

The space was unused except for storage and was most definitely not ready for prime time: disheveled and tattered around the edges.

“It was mostly storage, and piles of stuff everywhere,” Cocklin said.

That has since changed with around $200,000 worth of work: new lighting, padded seats, carpet, railings and a remodeled stage, giving the room a classic, regal feel.

“It went from a really uncomfortable place to be to a fantastic venue,” said Cocklin.

Riverbend Players’ inaugural production in the revamped facility was Neil Simon’s comedic classic, “The Odd Couple” in 2016. Recently they have tackled Cole Porter’s “You Never Know” and Garrison Kanin’s “Born Yesterday.”

It takes a village to put on a play courtesy Riverbend Players
It takes a village to put on a play.

With over a decade of stage productions and a remodeled facility under their belt, Riverbend Players recently achieved non-profit status and have seen their original base of volunteers grow from five to 35. They also have a contract with NCRD to be their house theater troupe and have added the ability to purchase tickets online.

In short, they are taking the Tillamook County theater scene by storm with three annual productions: one in spring, one in summer and one in fall/winter.

In all, Riverbend Players has staged 34 productions with 15 different directors.

Riverbend Players produces three plays each year courtesy of Riverbend Players
Riverbend Players produces three plays each year.

“We have a play selection committee that submits their recommendations to the board,” Cocklin said.

Though they are serious about creating authentic theater experiences, Cocklin said that everyone is welcome to become a part of the group. Whether your interest is behind the scenes or acting, there’s room for everyone.

“As we grow, we want anyone who is interested in the theater arts to come and get involved,” Cocklin said.

Riverbend Players has grown since ints inception in 2005 courtesy of Riverbend Players
Riverbend Players has grown since ints inception in 2005.

And if you’re shy about getting up on stage?

“We have a great group of veteran actors ready to help,” Cocklin said. “We’re a very friendly, inclusive group.”

NCRD Performing Arts Center is located at 36155 9th Street in Nehalem.

A Picture of Dan Haag
Dan Haag
Born and raised in the great white north of Minnesota, Dan Haag felt the pull of the north Oregon Coast in the early 90s. Finding that rain never needed to be shoveled, he married an Oregon girl and settled in Manzanita, where he works as director of the Manzanita Visitors Center. He is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of state and national publications. He spends his free time wandering the area’s many trails, supporting the Oregon wine and beer industry, perusing coastal bookstores, and chasing his black Labrador, Lilo, along the beach.