Essay Project 2021: Portland Civic Players
By: Melody Merrill
In the small town of Portland Michigan, sits a playhouse which is home to the Portland Civic Players. Driving through town, you’ll never miss the large old fashioned marquee on the building that was built a little over 70 years ago. During the era when movie theatres were popping up everywhere was the time the original theatre was built. In 1948 the playhouse was opened as the sun movie theatre. For awhile it continued to play movies. In 1955 a group of 9 people came a long and wondered if the little town of Portland could support a community theatre. The answer was “lets try it”. For 15 years the people of the PCP group didn’t have a set place to perform their plays, they traveled around the town finding garages and other places to perform. One of their most known performances was a performance during the Portland Centennial week in 1969. They did 9 performances of an old-fashioned medicine show. In the Playhouse you can even see the props from this show on display.
Then in 1970 the Portland Civic Players were contacted by John Kortes wondering if they would like to purchase the Sun theatre building that had been closed down for some time. After considering the offer, the Civic Players decided to buy the sun theatre, they finally had a permanent home. Since then the Portland Playhouse has housed over 80 different plays and musicals. Some were even written and directed by the local board member Roger Miller.
The Playhouse isn’t just a place that puts on plays, but it is also a second home for many people and a great way for the citizens of Portland to interact with each other through the performing arts. For this article I have contacted one of the board members, Mary Teachout and asked a few questions. One of which was, How has the theatre impacted people in Portland? She responded with, “The Portland Community Theatre has given people an affordable way to enjoy the arts in our town. PCP has a reputation for putting on quality shows many have said are just as good as what you may see in bigger theatres.” She also talked about the Summer Theatre youth program the the PCP offers. Mary says that the summer theatre program is a great way for kids in the community to come out of their shell and develop a love for the theatre and the performing arts. Says the short poem Theatre is Magic by Roger Turner, “ There is magic in live theatre, It can’t be understood.” The theatre is a great way for the community of Portland to enjoy the performing arts, whether you participate in the productions or come and see the shows!
Another question I had asked Mary was how the theatre has impacted you directly? She said that she has been part of the PCP group since she was just 10 years old. She said, “ It has been a second, solid family to me and I have made friends there that have been a part of my life ever since(..) I don’t know where I would be or what I would be doing without PCP.” With my personal experience with the theatre I can not agree more. I have done plays at the theatre since I was 11. I have always felt like everyone at the theatre is very welcoming and it is a great place to be. I love being in the plays and I love being around the people and the environment even more. I have made new friendships and I think it is a great way to interact with my community. The Portland Civic Players really brings out the best in Portland and is a gem in this small town community.
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.