A historic landmark for Prosser, Washington and the surrounding area, the Princess Theatre is one of only a handful of historic theatres in Washington State still operating as performance venues.
Since 1960, our theatre company has striven to enrich the community through performing arts and, since 2009, theater preservation.
After renting several locations in downtown Prosser, the Princess Theatre’s original owner, B.J. Pacius, hired Pearl Bros. Construction to build a permanent facility in the Spanish Mission style at the corner of Meade Avenue and 7th Street.
The Princess opened its doors in its current location on May 7, 1920. People came to Prosser from throughout the Yakima Valley to see moving pictures, boxing matches, Vaudeville shows and other forms of entertainment.
Today, over 100 years later, this historic theater is an affordable
and accessible arts, events and conference center in the heart of
downtown Prosser, offering a unique venue, experienced event
management staff and expert technical assistance.
Notice the man holding a sign for the Princess.
The Princess Theatre’s neon marquee is visible in the upper left corner.
In 1948, the interior of the Princess Theatre was converted to a fully modern “movie house,” complete with the Art Moderne-style neon marquee that still shines today. With the birth of the film industry, the Princess switched gears from a combination of movies and live stage performances to focus solely on motion pictures.
With the growing popularity of television, small town theater houses, including the Princess, began losing audiences. The Princess was still showing movies in the early 1970s, but a decade later the theatre closed.
During a birthday celebration in September 1960 in Sunnyside, Washington, the conversation wandered among topics. Then, someone suggested forming an amateur theater troupe to engage local thespians and entertain area residents. Eileen Holmason and Bev Pfouts seized upon the idea and, with the assistance of other theater and music aficionados, created Lower Valley Musical Comedy Company Inc.
An article in the newspaper of the day stated, “The Lower Valley Musical Comedy Company Inc. has been organized here in Sunnyside for the purpose of presenting amateur entertainment to the people of the Lower Yakima Valley without profit to the company.”
The first officers of the organization were Mrs. John (Eileen) Holmason, president; Don Hughes, vice president, and Mrs. Roger Dickey secretary-treasurer.
The article identified Jack Quinn as “heading the production staff.” Quinn was then manager of Prosser’s lone radio station. The article continued, “He was one of the founders of the Richland Light Opera Co., in 1948. Before that he had sung with the Light Opera Co. in San Francisco for nine years. Quinn also has experience in summer stock.” Quinn remained active with LVMCC for three decades.
Don Hughes served as LVMCC’s first musical director and continued in that capacity for more than four decades. Stated the 1960 article, Hughes “is the school district music director and directs the Sunnyside High School band. He also has played professionally in dance bands.” After setting down his baton for one year to play a title role, Hughes earned the affectionate nickname “The Music Man.” His wife, June, played the piano for LVMCC/VTC productions for several decades.
The choral director for LVMCC’s first production was Mrs. Oliver Jeffords. The Sunnyside newspaper reported, “She directed the choral groups for the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of Sunnyside, and is musical director of the First Methodist Church.”
That first production staff worked enthusiastically to stage LVMCC’s first production: the curtains at Sunnyside’s Lincoln School went up on Oklahoma! on March 10, 1961. An “angel,” John Holmason, financed the production to help LVMCC get on its feet.
Jack Isherwood was the troupe’s choreography. He operated a dance studio in Sunnyside and, said the newspaper, “He has been in several productions in college and summer stock.”
Throughout the 1960s and late into the 1990s, LMVCC continued to present a large-scale musical comedy each spring in Lincoln School.
In 1993 the Meridian Club of Prosser brainstormed the idea of reviving the theatre. Members formed the Princess Cultural Center (PCC), along with a committee that worked for a decade to raise money to buy and renovate the theatre. After the United States Department of Agriculture provided a grant to help with renovation, the community pitched in and volunteers from many organizations helped begin the project.
Unfortunately, structural problems with an adjacent building created expenses that the PCC could not meet and the building reverted to USDA ownership.
In the middle-late 1990s, several changes occurred.
Sunnyside School District renovated its high school to include a performing arts auditorium and announced plans to eliminate the acting, and storage, space at Lincoln School. VMCC (by then the company had dropped “Lower” from its name) moved its productions to the renovated Sunnyside High School.
A few years later, members began to discuss adding other types of theater to its season. To convey the change, members altered the troupe’s name to Valley Theater Company.
In the early 2000s, VTC began to dabble in non musicals and in some years presented two productions. In 2007, VTC produced a full slate of four stage shows.
VTC celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2021 – we think we would have made Eileen Holmason and Bev Pfouts proud of what they began!
For a year and a half, the USDA listed the building for sale. In 2005, Mercer Canyons, Inc. bought the building and, under the guidance of Julie Mercer, completed the theatre’s renovation as a performing arts center.
Prosser’s Princess Theatre reopened on Valentine’s Day 2007 to a full house, presenting Valley Theater Company’s production of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters.
From left: Jude Noah, Teresa Palazzo, Ben Macy
From left: Jude Noah, Teresa Palazzo, Ben Macy
In February 2013, the not-for-profit Valley Theater Company (VTC) purchased the Princess Theatre and adjoining Green Room from Mercer Canyons, Inc. More than 200 donations, a matching gift from the Edgar E. Whitehead Foundation and the generosity of Mercer Canyons, Inc. enabled this purchase.
Whether you want to attend live stage plays, movies, ballet recitals and jazz festivals; or host school graduations, business meetings, fundraisers, weddings, anniversaries and winemaker’s events, we invite you to join us at the Princess Theatre, the “center of Prosser” and a treasure for the entire Yakima Valley.
Thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Kinsman Foundation, The Green Room façade received a facelift in 2017. The Benton County Historical Preservation Grant Program helped repair and
update our marquee display window.
Thanks to the Heritage Capital Projects Fund Grant through the Washington State Historical Society, along with private donations, numerous repairs and improvements were made to the Princess Theatre’s façade and the interior of The Green Room at the Princess in 2018-2019. These included a complete electrical refurbishment and upgrade of the neon marquee, while maintaining its historical look; repair of the permanent awning and replacement of the awning lights at the theatre entrance; repair and repainting of the stucco façade and east-facing exterior wall; resurfacing of the concrete flooring in The Green Room.