History

The Village Players was founded in 1923 as a nonprofit theater club and was later reorganized as a community theater and a 501 (c) (3) organization. It is the third oldest community theater in Michigan and ranks among the 50 oldest theater groups in the United States.

Historical Highlights:

  • 1922 – Proposed as a Community Dramatic Group by high school student John W. Gafill.
  • 1923
    • Organized into the Village Players (16 charter members).
    • Performed “The Maker of Dreams” in the original Community House at the corner of West Maple and Bates.
  • 1926
    • Proposed a maximum allowed members of 225.
    • Purchased the current Chestnut Street property. (Meeting minutes reflect that the property purchase price was not to exceed $1800.)
    • Wallace Frost was commissioned as building architect and Loren Robinson was commissioned for back stage design.
    • The first performance at the new playhouse was staged in November. During this year, VP instituted the performance of an annual production open to the public.
  • 1942 – A scenery loft, electrical shop, paint shop, make-up room and kitchen were added to the playhouse.
  • 1952 – A new front entrance was added to provide a larger lobby and coatrooms and the auditorium was ramped for better visibility.
  • 1958 – The stage was widened and deepened, a new light board and new seating were installed, and new scenery, teasers and a new front curtain were provided.
  • Late 1980s
    • A capital campaign was launched to raise money to completely rebuild and expand major portions of the playhouse.
    • The current stage house was built around the old stage house which was then torn down.
  • Beginning in 1997, the old auditorium was razed and replaced, the old front lobby expanded and refurbished and the west lobby was added. Permanent seating and air conditioning were added.

 Interesting Historical Facts:

  • Numerous local families and individuals contributed to the construction of the original playhouse:
    • Howard Simpson furnished all material at cost.
    • Bob Tillotson executed construction at no profit to his contracting organization.
    • Mr. and Mrs. Loren Stauch contributed the auditorium’s maple dance floor.
    • Mr. and Mrs. Charles T. Shain contributed a fireplace.
    • Mr. and Mrs. John Graham donated the front curtain (which remained in use until the stage was widened in 1958).
    • Mr. and Mrs. Loren T. Robinson donated the curtain mechanism.
    • Mr. and Mrs. Zehner Dowling donated the rope, rigging and overhead machines.
  • 1933, Fred Farrar drew in chalk floor-to-roof murals which captured the spirit of amateur theater and covered the interior sidewalls of the auditorium. These murals were later restored and painted in oil. Due to the restoration in 1997, the walls had to be torn down. VP member, Don Brown created miniature reproductions of these walls that currently hang in the auditorium.

Historical information is taken from the following sources:

Histories published in The Eccentric in 1959, 1973 (VP 50th Anniversary) and 1983 (VP 60th Anniversary). Additional information is from a priceless binder which contains carefully typed Board of Director meeting minutes from the years 1924 – 1928. These materials are available at our playhouse for review.

 

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