By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Seven months after its longtime manager’s untimely death, Kenyon Hall is coming back to life.
Lou Magor‘s sudden passing in April came one year into a time that already was uncertain and unnerving for everyone involved in the arts. And then, while mourning its charismatic frontman, Kenyon Hall’s fans found themselves wondering about the future of the historic venue.
But now, Kenyon Hall is hosting shows again – from recorded, streamed performances like last weekend’s concert by Casey MacGill, to Twelfth Night Productions‘ upcoming in-person holiday play, opening soon. The board of its parent nonprofit Seattle Artists has “stepped in to actively do work that needs to be done,” explained longtime board member Connie Corrick, in a conversation with us at the hall (7904 35th SW).
That includes bringing in income to keep the hall in operation. Along with hosting performances, the hall also was used for music and dance classes, pre-pandemic. Now some of that is coming back, Corrick told us – music lessons and tai chi are back on the calendar, for starters.
The Seattle Artists board members are stepping up “until we feel we can hire someone” to run the hall, she explained. It’s a new role for the artists on the board, herself included – “Lou had always been the one running the hall – the board was always a support. Now we’re becoming an active board, taking on the responsibility.” That followed the shock and grief. “It was devastating to lose him so unexpectedly – he was planning on running the place at least another 5 years! But all of us jumped in. It wasn’t a question of sitting back, it was a question of how to move forward.”
COVID, of course, complicated things: “We couldn’t just reopen.”
But gradually they began to move that way, with the support of many artists who have performed at the hall – “many volunteered to do livestreamed shows – Lou had started that – to generate some income, for them too. They are interested (to ensure) that the legacy and history of the hall can continue.”
That history goes back more than a century, including its early days as the Olympic Heights Social Club. The history is part of the hall’s charm but also part of its challenges – it’s required some work over the years, though right now, Corrick says, “everything is workable.” But the bathrooms need some work, and a furnace dating back to the 1960s might need more than routine maintenance before long. They’re raising money in a campaign dubbed “Lights On for Lou,” to “keep the lights on.” (Seattle Artists owns the hall, and there’s a mortgage to pay.)
The date is set, meantime, for the grand celebration of his life that couldn’t be held in the spring or summer, again because of the pandemic. May 14 and/or 15, 2022 are the dates they’ve penciled in. And the best tribute of all will be to have even more happening at the hall by then.
First, Twelfth Night Productions’ “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” will return to Kenyon Hall for performances December 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 7:30 pm and December 12 and 19 at 3 pm. (Get tickets here!) Look for announcements soon about other shows after the first of the year.
And what about the hall’s legendary Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ (itself almost a century old)?
Corrick says Dennis James will be back in March to play it as accompaniment for silent movies – a favorite feature at the hall. And she and the other board members will do all they can to ensure the shows go on: “So many people, performers and audience members, love the hall – it’s an honor to be part of trying to keep that alive.” But not just preserving the venue – she is also thankful that they can “help people feel that welcome and joy Lou brought here.”