Portland Center Stage is one of the top 20 largest regional theaters in the country, and a trip to see a performance at one of the two theaters in The Gerding Theater at 128 NW 11th Ave., also known as the historic Armory, is a must-do during a Portland visit. But the building’s fascinating history, stunning beauty, and impressive sustainability features make it an attraction all on its own. On the first and third Saturday of each month during performance season you can tour the Gerding Theater at the Armory for FREE!
Constructed during 1891, the building originally existed to provide space for the Oregon National Guard to conduct drills. As time went on, the space was also used for community events and cherished as a symbol of power and security during turbulent times. Ask your tour guide about the enchanting Mary Garden, who created the female title role in Claude Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902 and about performances by the famous ensemble of John Philip Sousa! Other noteworthy visitors included Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and William Howard Taft. Find out about the Armory’s important role in Portland’s Brewery Blocks and the passionate desire of the city to restore the building, a dream that was realized in 2006.
The historic Armory was the first building on the National Register of Historic Places to receive LEED Platinum certification. Portland Center Stage wanted the building to be a fantastic performance venue, but to also be so much more than that. They wanted it to reflect the values that are embraced in the Pacific Northwest – creativity, beauty, and especially sustainability. Even with the energy demands of running two performance spaces, the Armory is 30% more energy efficient than code. Setting an example in water conservation, Portland Center Stage collects rainwater and reuses it to flush the building’s public toilets, using as little water as possible from Bull Run, the Portland area’s water supply. The Gerding Theater’s US Bank Main Stage features an airflow cavity underneath the seating, to make for a more comfortable temperature for audiences (which also means less distraction from heating or air conditioning during performances!). Set pieces are created using recycled materials whenever possible and construction crews also recycle as much of the materials after production as possible, diverting 95% of it away from landfills.
The quality of theater at Portland Center Stage is incredibly high – recent productions have included riffs on Chekhov and Dickens, intimate and personal one person shows and boundary-pushing, thought-provoking contemporary productions. If you are visiting Portland, don’t miss the chance to enjoy this amazing theater!
Want to attend Portland Center Stage’s fascinating FREE tour? Call the concierge at 503-445-3727 for details. Tours begin at noon at the concierge desk inside the building.