Changes at the Panida Theater

Director Lauren Sanders tenders resignation, Century Fund update and more new business

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

Changes are afoot at the historic Panida Theater, with Managing Director Lauren Sanders announcing July 27 that she is stepping down from running the historic theater after six months on the job. 

Sanders participated in her last board meeting Wednesday, Aug. 2 and discussed succession plans with the board. Her last official day as managing director is Thursday, Aug. 3.

“My decision to resign is not easy for me,” Sanders wrote in a news release. “I love stewarding the Panida into greater success, and I envisioned leading it through the centennial in 2027, especially with our new board, which is eager to optimize the internal operations and bolster the health of our organization. However, due to personal reasons, the timing isn’t there right now. I am having our second baby in November, and I have a 2-year-old. My priorities and energy have concurrently realigned.”

Sanders’ resignation marks the fourth managing director to helm the Panida since longtime director Karen Bowers’ tenure ended in 2013. Bowers’ stewardship of the Panida began in 1987 — only two years after the historic theater was saved from the wrecking ball.

Photo by Ben Olson.

“The Panida progressed under Lauren’s guidance and aspirational leadership and the benefits of her positive impact will continue to accrue for years to come,” said Panida Board Member Jeremiah Greenfield. “She was a foundational force in the recent evolution of the Panida.”

Also leaving the Panida staff is Technical and Maintenance Coordinator Josh Meagher, who announced his last day will be Aug. 20.

“I am not leaving on undesirable terms but, instead, have accepted a booking manager position with Spokane Public Facilities District to further advance my professional career,” he said.

Meagher added that he greatly appreciates “the opportunity for professional development and experience the Panida has provided me for the last two years,” and that he is “proud to have been a part of a supportive team and the historic theater.”

With an energized board numbering 11 members and the COVID-19 pandemic in the past, the Panida again began to thrive. Under Sanders’ leadership, the Panida sold out multiple shows with musical icons like Graham Nash and Jim Messina, and she helped curate events like No Man’s Land, which raised more than $7,000 for Kaniksu Land Trust and Pend Oreille Pedalers.

In other news, the Panida hired Mindy Thacker as the grant and fundraising coordinator to help usher in the second stage of the Century Fund, a five-year fundraising effort begun in 2022, which aims to raise a total of $1.9 million to coincide with the Panida’s 100th birthday in 2027.

“We kicked it off last October with the goal to raise $273,000 in the first year,” said Chris Bessler, chair of the Panida Century Fund campaign. “As of July 15 and our most recent financial report, the total of funds raised in the first year adds up to almost $280,000.”

The first phase of fundraising was given a big boost by Ting Internet, which has pledged up to $200,000 to match individual donations and has already contributed almost $70,000.

Bessler also confirmed the Panida has secured an Idaho Gem grant, as well as grants from the Idaho Heritage Trust and the Equinox Foundation, through the Innovia Foundation, totalling another $106,000.

“And we’re actively writing more grants now,” he said.

The first year of fundraising will be devoted mainly to new roofs for both the main Panida and Little Panida theaters.

The Panida Board has begun its search for a new managing director, with Community Outreach Chair Jimmy Matlosz stating anyone interested in learning more about the position should contact the Panida through its contact form on

“I hope I can continue to support the Panida and fill in with my skill sets where needed,” Sanders said. “I will miss working with the amazing team of staff, board members and our incredible volunteers. … I wholeheartedly wish the Panida nothing but the best. It is truly a special place.”

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