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50 Years of Cannon Beach's Coaster Theater - A Party, A Look at Oregon Coast History

Published 06/14/22 at 6:55 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

50 Years of Cannon Beach's Coaster Theater - A Party, A Look at Oregon Coast History

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – Get in a nostalgic mood and maybe Disco until you can't boogie no more. Consider dusting off your platform shoes, wide collar-shirts and fancy Disco dresses if you're heading to the north Oregon coast in late June. It's on June 29 that Cannon Beach's Coaster Theatre puts on a '70s party of sorts as it celebrates the theatre's 50th birthday with a day crammed full of entertainment, groovy tunes from the 1970s, a costume contest and a silent auction. (Photo courtesy Coaster Theatre: the theatre in 1969)

The open-house party runs from 2 to 5 p.m. in the theatre’s courtyard and from 6 to 9 p.m. in the theatre.

Way back in 1972, Jethro Tull put out its landmark Thick As A Brick album and Bill Withers released the anthemic single Lean On Me. In a little corner of the Oregon coast, a Portland patron of the arts named Maurie Clark purchased a somewhat dilapidated old building that had been a skating rink when it opened in the 1920s and later a silent movie house. After an extensive remodel, Cannon Beach's seminal Coaster Theatre Playhouse opened up.

The history of Coaster Theatre is well integrated into and integral to the history of Cannon Beach.

According to the Statesman Journal in 1972, remodeling work began in February. Designer-building Ray Watkins told the paper they were looking to create something the local residents would aesthetically be comfortable with, “so we're using warm, Oregon woods.”

Mission accomplished on that one. The theatre still maintains a unique look on the Oregon coast that's clearly rooted in the past, with many design elements left from over from the 1920s. Yet it also hearkens back to something much earlier, such as shades of a frontier town.

Once the theatre opened up, Portland State University Summer Stock Company became regular performers each year and other groups regularly presented concerts and performances throughout the season. The first performances were of “The Odd Couple” starting June 29, 1972, followed by “The Miracle Worker,” “The Bat” and “You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.”

During the following winter, various Cannon Beach residents along with D.K. Smith and Bill Steidel at the helm, put on the first community production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This began a tradition of producing community plays and musicals throughout the year that's continued over 50 years. Generations of north Oregon coast residents and visitors have participated on and off stage at the Coaster Theatre, often creating lifelong friendships and a few marriages.

50 Years of N. Oregon Coast's Coaster Theatre Celebrated: History of Cannon Beach Landmark
Coaster Theatre just after remodel in '72

Clark passed away in 2001, and then the Coaster Theatre became a nonprofit organization, which now continues the tradition of showcasing live theater and events on its stage that bring in residents and visitors of all ages.

The Coaster Theatre is celebrating all year with a selection of shows and playwrights that are audience favorites. The theatre is also offering monthly special event concerts to celebrate this momentous anniversary. Details about the 50th birthday party, plays, musicals and special events are at

Upcoming shows and events at Coaster Theatre: Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, July 6 - Aug. 6; Auditions for Gramercy Ghost, July 25 & 26; Clue: The Musical, Aug. 10 – Sept. 10. Hotels in Cannon Beach - Where to eat - Cannon Beach Maps and Virtual Tours



Courtesy Coaster Theatre

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