Pioneer Theatre renamed to honor former instructor

Bob Clapp

Pioneer Theatre at the Blue Mountain Community College will be renamed the Bob Clapp Memorial Theatre. A unanimous decision by the college’s board of education was made Nov. 3 to honor Clapp, who taught theater arts and speech at the college for 25 years. In addition, he was a resident director for the College Community Theatre, producing nearly 100 plays in the theater that will now bear his name.

Lorie Baxter said a spontaneous upswelling of interest in doing something to honor Clapp began to unfold after he died in early September. He battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig's Disease,” for two years, Baxter said.

“He did everything to develop theater here and in the whole region,” Baxter said.

Craig McIntosh, theater instructor at the college, characterized Clapp as “Mr. Theatre, a mentor and a friend to all.”

John Remington, theater teacher at Pendleton High School, agreed.

“He’s the reason I got into theater in the first place,” he said. “Bob was a role model in the truest sense.”

Under Clapp’s leadership, Remington participated in theater at Blue Mountain.

While a sophomore at Weston-McEwen High School, Remington attended one of Clapp’s theater classes during a school-sponsored visitation.

Unbeknownst to Remington at the time, Clapp spoke to Remington’s mother and encouraged her to steer him his way when he was a senior if he was undecided about college choices.

Remington knew he wanted to teach, but was unsure where he wanted to attend. 

With a two-year full-ride scholarship, Remington studied under Clapp’s tutelage.

“I did a couple of plays under his direction,” Remington said. “He was just the one who opened a new world for me.”

Clapp and his wife, Caryl, moved to the Oregon coast, Baxter said, where he remained active in promoting education and the arts.

During his days at Blue Mountain, Baxter said Clapp’s entire family was involved with the theater program, from lighting to building stage sets. The Clapp’s children include Rob Clapp and Blakesley Clapp, both of Portland; and Jeff Clapp, of Tacoma, Wash.

Baxter recalls Clapp as Tevye in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“I still close my eyes and see him. And he looked the part and he had a wonderful singing voice,” Baxter said about Clapp’s performance.

Clapp’s quiet patience and gentle support, Remington said, opened the doors to the wonders of learning.

“He opened our eyes to the possibilities.”

An official dedication is being planned, as well as a memorial fund in theater education. For more information, contact Karen Hill at or 541-278-5933.

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