Aaron Elmore knows many thespians who consider theater “their church.” For him, church and theater have been intertwined since Theatre in the Rough first made a home for itself in the old McPhetres Hall at Holy Trinity Church.
“They both have aspects of transportation and transcendence,” Elmore said. “They’re about gathering people together.”
Following the 2006 arson fire that destroyed the old church, rebuilding efforts have demonstrated the power of a church and a theater working in concert to gather people together in a common aim.
And whether it’s for service at Holy Trinity Church, a performance in McPhetres Hall, or a quilters group meeting in the conference room, whatever draws people to this new space will likely be about gathering as a community.
With construction essentially completed and the new facility ready for use, the church is hosting a grand opening celebration this Sunday, Sept. 4. Festivities will include a blessing and dedication, choral music, tours of the facility, and preview scenes from Theatre in the Rough’s upcoming performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Holy Trinity and McPhetres Hall form a “village green” for the entire Juneau community, Elmore said, and he and others are eager to see the building get used and new memories get made.
“Right now it’s a little like a furnished apartment, just moved in.”
Services have been held in the church since December 2009, and the sanctuary is starting to accumulate the smells of use: wax, dust, furniture polish.
Many spaces and hallways still smell brand-new, but signs of use are appearing in every corner of the building. Theatre in the Rough christened McPhetres Hall with their performance of “Our Town” in the spring and recently had their first rehearsal of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the building’s conference room. Community support groups are meeting in the room as well, the quilters’ guild will use the space soon, and the Mustard Seed gift shop is preparing for reopening this month.
After a whirlwind five years of fundraising and planning, Elmore took a moment recently to show a visitor around the new buildingl and reflect on all that had occurred to make the space a reality. It took thousands of people to bring the place back to life, he said — everything from financial donations large and small to simple words of encouragement.
“It is a work that has taken place in thousands of lives whether they knew it or not,” he said.
For so long, Elmore said, those involved in the rebuilding process had been looking at his artist’s renderings of the design for the new space. Now, the drawings, the focus of so many fundraising efforts, are just “shadows” of the new space around him — which, he added, looks just like his original sketches.
Theatre in the Rough began its relationship with Holy Trinity shortly after Elmore and Katie Jensen formed the troupe in the early ‘90s. After two shows at the high school, they searched out a sparser space for a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” McPhetres Hall came recommended to them (Perseverance Theatre had used the space for performances, including their very first play, before their Douglas theater was built) and the space, though never perfect, worked well for a theater that developed a reputation for making magic on a shoestring.
Over time, the theater gradually “became a part of the fabric of life” at Holy Trinity, Elmore said. When discussions about rebuilding the church began, Theatre in the Rough was an integral part of the process. Now, being the “theater in residence” at McPhetres Hall feels right for a troupe that typically does just two shows a year, Elmore said. A good home for Theatre in the Rough is one they can share with other performing arts groups. Juneau Lyric Opera will perform “La Bohème” in the hall later this year, and other performing arts groups are being invited to use the space.
“As George (Rev. George Silides, the rector of Holy Trinity) has said over and over again about the entire facility, we have no idea who’s going to use this facility, they might not even have been born yet,” Elmore said.
There is still work to be done, both to put the finishing touches on the facility and to figure out how it can be used, but it’s a project for Holy Trinity, Theatre in the Rough and the community of Juneau to take part in together.
“As they say in the ‘Little Prince,’” which Theatre in the Rough performed in 2008, ‘You’re responsible forever for what you’ve tamed,’” Elmore said. “And now we’ve been tamed by the community of Juneau.”
The grand opening of Holy Trinity and McPhetres Hall will be held Sunday, Sept. 4 from 1-5 p.m. A blessing, dedication and program of thanks will kick off the program at 1 p.m. Alaska Episcopal Diocese Bishop Mark Lattime and Holy Trinity Rector George Silides will preside. Choral and vocal music will follow at 2 p.m. Theatre in the Rough will preview scenes from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 3 p.m. Food and tours will be provided. Children’s entertainment will include a clown, chalk art and balloon animals.
For more information, visit trinityjuneau.org or call the church at 586-3532.