The Gallery Theater in McMinnville, Oregon, is a notable community theater and cultural center that was established in 1968. It has a rich history of showcasing local talent across various age groups and works collaboratively with other organizations to enhance local arts and tourism. The theater has become a cornerstone of the community, contributing significantly to the cultural life of McMinnville.
Originally, theater in McMinnville was limited to high school and Linfield College stage shows. The founding of Gallery Theater marked a significant shift, with local individuals passionate about theater coming together to create a new platform for theatrical arts. Notable founders included Lea New, for whom the building is named, along with others like Elmer Fricke, Virginia Davidson, Mort Kresner, Winnie Combs, and Paul Little.
Initially, performances were held in a campus art gallery at Linfield College. However, as the company grew, it relocated to an old garage and manufacturing building at the corner of Second and Ford Streets in the mid-1970s. This building was extensively remodeled in the early 1980s to become the theater as it is known today.
Gallery Theater has a significant footprint in McMinnville, occupying about a quarter of a downtown city block. The theater complex includes two stages: a main stage that seats 240 and a black box theater added in 1988 that seats 86. The black box expansion also included additional facilities like dressing rooms, a set shop, and a dance studio. The theater is also known for its extensive costume shop, which is admired by theaters across the Pacific Northwest.
Since its inception, Gallery Players of Oregon has produced more than 340 plays, most of them in their dedicated building. The theater is managed by a volunteer board of directors and a part-time manager.
Gallery Theater's importance in the local community remains strong, as it continues to be a hub for cultural and artistic expression in McMinnville.