Hannah Sievert/The Daily Astorian
WARRENTON — On Sunday mornings, Kathy Matthews is known as “Pastor Matthews,” the lead pastor for the Warrenton United Methodist Church.
But on other days, people often call her by her longtime stage name — “Mama” — when they see her around town.
Matthews has played the character in the Astor Street Opry Company’s annual production of “Shanghaied in Astoria,” with a few breaks, for the past 26 years.
She plans to bow out of the role when the show ends its 34th season in September.
The play, which centers around Astoria’s Scandinavian heritage, is a musical melodrama that values audience participation. Matthews joined the crew in the show’s ninth season and fell in love with her character, a feisty matriarch with a heavy Norwegian accent.
“I feel like she’s a part of me,” she said. “I tell people, I’ve become Norwegian by osmosis.”
“Shanghaied” runs Thursday through Saturday — with a few Sunday performances — from mid-July to early September. Matthews shares the role of “Mama” with several other actors throughout the season and does not perform every weekend.
Though participating in the show is a time commitment with weekly rehearsals and performances, Matthews’ love of community theater and the desire to see the play run successfully have kept her returning year after year.
“There’s some sense of responsibility when you’ve done the role that long,” she said. “You get this feeling that you’re letting people down if you leave.”
Patricia VonVintage, the directing manager at Astor Street, who plays the role of “Vivian,” said Matthews brings a commitment to her role that can be inspiring to some of the younger cast members.
When VonVintage first saw Matthews dancing across the stage during her solo song and dance act, “The Older the Fiddle, the Sweeter the Tune,” VonVintage realized she could bring more energy and movement to her own performance.
“You gotta be as good as Kathy,” VonVintage said. “She’s in there showing it, so us young bucks are definitely making sure we have to pick up our game. She’s such a good character actor in that way. It makes us all step up our game.”
When Matthews isn’t at rehearsals, on stage or at the church, she is the owner of an antique shop in downtown Astoria, What-nots & Whimsy. Next year, she hopes to move on from the show to spend more time traveling with her husband.
For her final performance in late August, two of her great-grandchildren will visit Astoria to watch Matthews perform as “Mama” one last time.
“She’s someone we will always look toward for inspiration,” VonVintage said. “Kathy will always be there in spirit and she’ll always be coming in to help. She’s not leaving us whether she’s on stage or not.”