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Matt Cadman | Eclectic PAC programs drawing diverse crowds

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The PAC was blushing with pride.

Burlesque sold out our performing arts center in the form of The Atomic Bombshells, a Seattle-based dance troupe specializing in classic Bourbon Street and Parisian burlesque.

And what a show! The Bombshells’ experience was profound, on stage and off.

At intermission, I made my way out to the lobby to gauge the reaction of the crowd and was surrounded by patrons abuzz about the performance. This mass of humanity was quite a sight, the likes of which have rarely been seen at the PAC.

I witnessed heads of hair in colors not available in nature, fashion choices from Dolce & Gabbana to the Artful Dodger, and the energy of Burning Man on Day Three.

A lesbian couple approached and said how incredible it was to see a show like this in Wenatchee.

One said this was the first time she had ever been to the PAC. “There has never been any reason for me to come here before tonight.”

Her partner hadn’t even known where the PAC was located. They were beaming at the opportunity to celebrate a night out in their hometown, absent the masks of conformity.

I felt a tap on my shoulder in the packed lobby, and I turned around and met Easy Rider.

He was sporting long, gray hair and his ponytail covered a denim jacket with his motorcycle club’s colors stitched on the back.

“Dude, nice call with the strippers! Great show!”

“You mean burlesque!” I corrected him.

“Whatever, man!” He shook his head, smiled, slapped my back, and wandered back to his seat.

Another couple drew closer to say how much they appreciated the risk I took in bringing burlesque to Wenatchee.

Risk?! He was the tattooed one who resembled a walking comic book and his lady had orange troll hair.

I was in a coat and tie, and they called me “edgy.” Nothing about me is edgy, Walter Mitty is edgier than I, but admittedly, I walked away with a swagger — until the moment I bumped into Tom and Maryann McNair, dressed to the nines, with conventional haircuts.

Tom, a prominent local, financial adviser, was grinning from unpierced ear to unpierced ear.

“This is an amazing night!” That was all he said, as the lights began to flicker, and the promise of Act Two cleared the lobby.

The final image I carried from that intermission was the back of an elderly man as he slowly shuffled to his seat in the balcony. It was Wilfred Woods, one of the PAC’s greatest patrons, celebrating burlesque with a crowd generations younger than he.

After church the next morning, my family went to breakfast and in the midst of a busy Sunday morning crowd, one table opened up and we were seated next to a group of six women, quietly visiting over pancakes, texting on their phones and sipping coffee.

“Hi Matt!” One of the ladies waved. “We had a great time last night! What a crowd!

“Yes, it was fabulous,” I responded. “Where were your seats ...?” I trailed off, realizing the last time I saw these polite, adorable, and conservatively attired young ladies, they were prancing around the PAC in their skivvies.

Stunned by these vignettes, I was gratified to see such a diverse mix of my neighbors stripping away the veneer and setting aside pretense, applauding and performing in concert, in the theater I love so dearly. I pondered the nature of community, a spirit of belonging to all.

Patrons of the arts in our Valley celebrated community at the PAC that evening — with exotic dancers — and I was suddenly proud to be edgy.

Matt Cadman can be reached at

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