Formation of nonprofit could bring back shows to D&R Theatre this year

Efforts are underway to bring back live entertainment to the stage of Aberdeen’s downtown D&R Theatre later this year, with theater owner John Yonich and a group of community members in the midst of an effort to create a nonprofit organization to help manage and promote future shows.

Since re-opening more than 10 years ago, the D&R has hosted more than 110 shows featuring a wide range of big-name acts — from country star Eric Church to blues master Buddy Guy and everything in between. But the theater has recently been unused for such purposes due to financial and administrative challenges, according to Yonich, who says his main goal in this most recent effort is to revive the venue as an economic force for downtown Aberdeen.

The theater’s most recent shows were performances by The Outlaws and Aaron Neville last summer.

Yonich has formed a 501C3 nonprofit titled Aberdeen Arts & Entertainment, which will be run by a board of directors that so far includes himself, local real estate professional David Quigg, Wil Russoul, executive director of Main Street Aberdeen and Darrell Westmoreland, who’s well known for his professional photography of concerts throughout Western Washington since the 1970s.

The idea and effort to form the nonprofit began about a year ago, according to Yonich.

“If you have the nonprofit (status), you have a lot more flexibility in booking shows,” said Yonich, who noted that the effort is being modeled after the one used for the circa 1935 Cascade Theatre in downtown Redding, Calif., which has flourished since being renovated and managed under nonprofit status since 2004.

This is a reversal for Yonich, who last year had pretty much decided to shutter the venue due to dwindling ticket sales in the community and what he said were frustrations dealing with the former City of Aberdeen administration and other issues downtown.

“The nonprofit is a vehicle to put this all together and give it a new breath,” he said last week. “It all depends on how this plan works, but you have to have some sort of draw for downtown.”

Westmoreland, who has worked up close with concert promoters throughout Western Washington for decades, thinks and hopes it will work.

“I do think it will work,” he said Friday morning. “There’s a group of people behind it. I’d hate to see it go away. I truly think it will happen if all goes to plan.”

Westmoreland recalled how many great shows there have been at the D&R since Yonich restored and re-opened it. He’d like to see that vibe back in downtown Aberdeen as soon as possible.

“I think people want (the entertainment) back,” Westmoreland said. “It does affect downtown Aberdeen in a positive way when there are shows — just ask the nearby restaurant owners. I don’t want to see it go away.

“Do you want to see it go away?”