About Triumvirate Theatre
In 1998, the Alaska Children’s Institute for the Performing Arts, just a few months old, held our first drama camp at Nikiski High School. Within seven years, it was obvious that the program had grown so much, we needed our own performance facility. After looking at many different rental spaces, we found a 3,000 square foot space in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. About that same time, the Kambe Movie Theatre replaced all their seating. A couple of kids from the Nikiski Debate Team and their parents went dumpster diving (with the Kambe’s permission) and this began the process of painstakingly reassembling the old orange 1970’s movie theatre seats inside the empty mall space. Since the layout of the large room was split in half by design, a theatre was assembled in one half, and a bookstore in the other. At first, the bookstore provided much-needed revenue to pay the mall space rent. Rosie Reeder assembled an army of volunteers and the bookstore was opened five days a week, till 6:00 p.m. Our first show was in December of 2005, an adaption of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. The author himself approved the production asking that we just send him a check for $30. Today, the correspondence with his scrawled signature is hanging in Carla Jenness’ home, our first Triumvirate director. On a snowy night in December, Triumvirate Theatre was born. The opening night crowd overwhelmed the small space and with snow blowing in through the back door, extra chairs were muscled in to accommodate the eager crowd. Over the next ten years, more than a hundred shows were performed on that small makeshift stage. In 2007, an old mechanic’s shop went up for sale about five miles north of Kenai. Knowing that eventually we would have to give up the mall space, this building seemed a good opportunity to find a permanent home for Triumvirate Theatre. The organization of course didn’t have the collateral or finances to buy the building so Joe and Paulene Rizzo and Carla and Chris Jenness, board members with ACIPA, scraped together enough personal money for the down payment and bought the 40-year-old building. Thus began an overwhelming remodel job that took herculean efforts to accomplish. On a summer day in 2008, Joe Rizzo, president of ACIPA, met with Steve Hansen of Tesoro. At the end of the short meeting, Steve had a check written to the non-profit for $10,000. Many donations followed but burning up cash to stabilize the building and convert it into a performance space seemed a futile effort. There was just so much to be done. Then, the Nikiski High School shop class came to the rescue. John O’Brien, principal at Nikiski High, was looking for a hands-on program to help prepare students for work in the trades. Serendipitously, he had recently hired one of the best shop teachers in the state, Paul Johnson. An arrangement was made and for the next two years, shop class was held out at the new theater building every day. A group of dedicated kids under the direction of the incredibly competent Mr. Johnson put up sheet rock, tiled floors, built a stage, put in plumbing, constructed a balcony and built platforms for seating. However, even with all this incredible help, this project would have never been brought to fruition if not for the charitable heart of Harry Ala. A licensed electrician, Harry painstakingly removed all the old wiring from the building and spent ten hour days for two months rewiring the building anew. He donated tens of thousands of dollars in time and effort. In November of 2013, Harry and his wife, Abby, and a hundred other people instrumental in bringing about this miraculous transformation from greasy derelict shop to beautiful performance space, were dressed in tuxes and evening gowns. The first show at what was being called Triumvirate North began. A parody of a song done by Neil Patrick Harris for the Emmy awards burst on to the stage featuring two dozen dancers, singers, and even cheerleaders. The spectacle of the gala ushered in a string of great shows, starting with White Christmas. Quality shows at Triumvirate North have been entertaining the community ever since.
Shortly after Triumvirate North opened, the theatre in the mall space closed. A new owner had bought the mall and wasn’t really interested in giving us the swinging deal we had been paying for the last ten years. With the help of a Carlile truck, we packed up ten years of props, sets and memories and piled them into the new Triumvirate North facility. Now, the building that we are renting is furnished by members of the board who are deeply committed to the organization and the kids in the community. A long-term lease is in effect, ensuring that Triumvirate Theatre will be able to serve the community for decades. Today, Triumvirate Theatre is thriving thanks to generous donations from both corporations and individuals. And although the surroundings have changed from what we affectionately called the “ghetto mall” to our classy art deco theatre just five miles north of Kenai, our mission has not changed. Like in the beginning, we still offer drama camps every summer and our priority is giving performing arts opportunities to kids. With the help of the community, we will continue to do so into the future.
About The Alaska Children's Institute for the Performing Arts
The Alaska Children's Institute for the Performing Arts has been bringing the magic of theater to children for many years. Its focus on cooperative learning and real-life stage experience has proven to enrich children's lives and build their academic skills. With hands-on experiences like building sets, assembling props and other elements of theater production, children learn many practical skills. Additionally, staging their own show bolsters their self-esteem and delights audiences who attend to cheer them on and celebrate their accomplishments. At our fabulous Triumvirate North facility, 5 miles north of Kenai, we continue to offer performing arts education and experience to the community's youth. Thanks to the generous contributions of corporations and organizations and count-less hours on the part of volunteers, the ACIPA will continue to grow and make a difference in kids' lives on the Kenai Peninsula.