We love being part of the Portland community. Our small but mighty group has produced many plays to date and are looking forward to presenting Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for our community in the fall. Despite all the hard work, past and present (including installing air conditioning – much to the joy of our Summer Theater directors, participants and their families), we cannot ignore the fact that our building is old and in need of some TLC. We have started fundraising to do some major updates and renovations to the outside of our home, including renovating the marquee with LED screens. This will allow us to utilize the marquee for our events and more widely for the community. With a few pushes of the keyboard we will be able to change and rotate the messages seen. How fun would it be to put someone’s birthday or anniversary up in lights? Advertise community events? And best of all we would no longer have to go out in the frigid cold to change the marquee, losing letters that shatter on the sidewalk from the cold.
This is no small project, but we are anxious to get started and know it will transform what we can do and how we can interact with our community. We estimate the total needed to complete this project will be around a $130,000. Grant applications will be part of our process, but we still have a great deal of funding to raise.
We are asking the community we have been a part of for over 60 years for help. How can you do that? We have and will have many fundraising events planned for you to attend. If you have not ‘liked’ our Facebook page “Portland Civic Players” please do so you can keep up with everything that will be happening in the future.
Our next fundraiser is at the Wagon Wheel on July 17th from 4 pm to 9 pm. As a bonus, it’s also Tap Takeover night featuring New Holland Brewing. Present the special coupon, paper or on your phone, that you can find on our Facebook page and 20% of your purchase is donated to the Portland Civic Players. The more people that show and present the coupon the more is donated to our group. It’s that simple! We will also be starting a crowdfunding campaign soon! So, if you can’t make it to any of the scheduled fundraisers but still want to help, you will have the option.
We are always surprised when we hear that people don’t realize we are there. We hope to change that so here is a little history of our merry band of Players.
In 1955 a group of 9 people asked the Lansing Civic Players if a town of 3800 people could support community theatre when there were already three such groups in the nearby metropolitan area? The answer was: Try it and see. So we did.
During our first 16 years of existence we scattered our property in a maze of garages and attics. For a while we used a one room country school house whose out-door plumbing caught on fire. We tidied the basement of an unused funeral parlor and rehearsed “The Merry Widow” in its chapel. We wired lights into the Portland Country Club barn and knocked bushels of bird guano out of its rafters, and then held a dance there; we used the old school house on Emery Road to store our flats. For the first 16 years, two plays a year were produced on either the Public or St. Patrick’s school gymnasium stages. In October of 1970, then president, Fran Huhn appointed a committee to check into possible properties to purchase. On Christmas day of 1970, Pauline Jordon was contacted by the John Kortes family concerning the Sun Theatre building which had been closed for some time.
On January 15, 1971 the committee gave its report to board and membership and it was decided to buy the Sun Theatre. There were no grants, or state or federal aide, and no angels with money to give, but there were loyal Players who were willing to place themselves in voluntary bondage for the next dozen or so years so their group could have a home. The first play in our new home was ‘The Girls in 509’ in 1971 and our first musical was ‘On a Clear Day in 1972.
The Sun Theater was originally built in 1948, moving from its original home down on Kent Street about where Hot Shots is now. The Theatre is 40’ x 115’ and sets on a lot that is 45’ x 120’. There was a cry room that is now our light booth and a balcony that has been closed and is now our costume room. The costume room itself has gone through a major transformation over the last several months. Over the years we have made several updates to the space including dressing rooms and a makeup room in the basement, built on an addition to the theatre to house our flats, and redid our backstage area to make our cast and crew a bit more comfortable and in recent years.
We are so excited for what our future holds for us and the community. We look forward to seeing everyone at the Wheel on July 17. And as always, see you at the theater!
Photos courtesy of The Portland Civic Players