WITH THE CLOSURE of Theater! Theatre! in 2013 and rising rents citywide, Portland's theater and comedy communities have been short on small, low-cost performance spaces, despite strong demand. This problem's all too familiar to Shelley McLendon, who runs Bad Reputation Productions and performs sketch comedy and improv with the Aces and the Liberators. The shortage put McLendon and her fellow performers in a bind, and meant she'd often find herself booking whatever theater space she could find when it became available—even if she didn't know exactly what her next project was—because openings were so limited.
Now, after two years spent looking for a suitable building, McLendon has found a more sustainable solution: She's opening her own theater in Old Town/Chinatown's historical Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Building at 315 NW Davis. The Siren Theater will open in mid-October. The new theater's primary purpose will be to house Bad Reputation in a permanent home base, says McLendon, but also be "available to the Portland theater and comedy community, because there's a shortage of mid-sized affordable theaters in town." The Siren will house the theater itself on the first floor, as well as provide room for rehearsal (something local arts groups sometimes forego due to costs) and offices.
Once new light and sound systems and new floors have been installed, Bad Reputation's first show in its new home will be a revival of 2012's The Lost Boys—Live! (full disclosure: Mercury Editor in Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey is in this show, reprising his roles as Grandpa and Paul the Vampire). When renovations are complete, the theater will accommodate an audience of 100 to 130, and McLendon says she hopes to keep ticket prices low.
"[In] every quadrant of Portland I have put in a lease offer," she says of her two-year search. "This is the first place where everything so far has aligned."