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Bellingham’s longest-running improv show will remain despite losing former performance space

The Upfront Theatre has reopened its doors after the Sylvia Center closed in early September

The Upfront Theatre, located in Bellingham, Wash. showcases a fresh paint job and new entrances and exits to the stage after their month-long closure. On Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, improvisers took to the freshly renovated stage with the popular show “The G.B.U ”. // Photo by Cecilee Romano

After a month-long closure, The Upfront Theatre will continue improv shows at its location on Prospect Street, despite the closure of the Sylvia Center, which previously owned the space. 

This change will allow The Upfront Theatre to take more ownership of the space, said Upfront general manager Gillian Myers. 

The Upfront Theatre closed during September due to building renovations at the Prospect Street location. Myers said they’ve added new entrances and exits, repainted and remodeled the seating arrangement. The renovations aim to create an enhanced experience for audiences and provide the actors with various options for creative control throughout the show. 

As The Upfront Theatre considers its future in the Bellingham performing arts space, Myers hopes to see more of the community attending classes, shows and community jams. 

“I really do believe in the magic of improv, whether it be just watching it unfold or being involved in it yourself. It’s a really powerful form of art,” Myers said. “Bringing people together in that way, having that communal experience is really awesome and powerful.” 

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Promotional posters hang outside the theatre as the audience finds their seats on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. “The G.B.U” and “Hellingham” are two of the most popular shows at The Upfront Theatre located in Bellingham, Wash. // Photo by Cecilee Romano

The Upfront Theatre reformed as a nonprofit in 2020 after “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” actor and co-founder of The Upfront Theatre, Ryan Stiles, left his administrative role. 

The Upfront Theater is funded by ticket sales, classes, private workshops and donations. 

Kimiyo Brown Bowlby received her B.A. in Theater from the University of Southern California. She grew up doing theater and performing arts and is a fan of The Upfront Theatre. 

Bowlby believes that performing arts can save people's lives.

“It is such a special place for people to belong. It gives you a sense of purpose, to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” Bowlby said. “The arts and creativity is what gives us life.”

Many theaters and other performing art spaces were forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in massive losses in revenue. Performing arts experienced some of the most excessive declines in the U.S economy in 2020. 

Neco Pacheaco is one half of a Minnesota-based improv duo “The Pacheacos.” The duo had a six-week tour throughout the summer of 2022, stopping at The Upfront Theatre to perform as guests at the “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” (G.B.U). The G.B.U is Bellingham’s longest-running improvised comedy show. Showtimes are every Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

“I am glad that The Upfront Theatre gets to keep that venue in the building because it’s cool, and it’s so hard to lose yet another theater space in a town that already has so few,” Pacheaco said. “I feel like you need spaces for people to try things and do shows and connect with the community, otherwise, you are missing out on a huge community opportunity and artistic expression.” 

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New seats sit ready for theatre goers new and old. Adding new seating was also a part of the renovations done at Bellingham's The Upfront Theatre. Audiences were able to see these renovations on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. // Photo by Cecilee Romano

Fan favorites like “Hellingham” and “The G.B.U” have already started back up again. “Hellingham” is an improvised murder mystery show. At the beginning of the show, the audience has the chance to choose what names and occupations the improvisers will take on. 

“Hellingham” will be running throughout the month of October. Showings are at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The cost for tickets ranges between $10-$16. Hellingham and The G.B.U are both family-friendly. 


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