Historic Theatres Gather for Regional Meeting

COLDWATER – Historic theatres from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio gathered in Coldwater, Michigan to network and discuss topics relevant to the industry.

The informal gathering also epitomized the idea that the show must go on and clearly showed how easily theatre people adapt. A major storm that blew through Coldwater at 5 am the day of the meeting, felled trees and took down power lines, knocking out electricity, closing streets throughout the small town, and leaving Tibbits Opera House, where the meeting was to be held, in the dark. A new location was found. Tibbits staff redirected their guests with directions to avoid the road closings. The meeting went on with a running joke about needing power. The electricity was restored to the opera house in time for attendees to return for a tour of the 137-year-old theatre before departing.

The meeting held Thursday, May 23 from 10 am to 1:30 was the second such Midwest regional gathering. The first was held last September at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, IN. The goal of both gatherings was to meet peers in the industry to discuss common issues and opportunities.

The gathering followed the LHAT format of open discussion, sharing of ideas and plenty of networking. It opened with a panel discussion relative to fundraising and funding sources for theatres called “All Things Funding!”  Luke Weick from the Embassy Theater led a discussion on development and the importance of relationships. Stephanie Hinman from the Kalamazoo State Theatre led a discussion on concessions and bar as an important income stream. Christine Delaney of the Tibbits Opera House discussed programming to meet the needs of the community as a way of building support by entrenching your theatre in the community.      

The afternoon included a nuts and bolts session for the open exchange of ideas and issues affecting theatres.  Breakfast and beverages were funded by the Coldwater Country Conference and Visitors Bureau.  Lunch was provided by the League of Historic American Theatres. The group plans another meeting in the fall to be hosted by the Kalamazoo State Theatre.

Venues represented were Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, IN; Croswell Opera House, Adrian, MI; Dawn Theatre, Hillsdale, MI; Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, IN; Bohm Theatre, Albion, MI; Goshen Theater, Goshen, IN; Kalamazoo State Theater, Kalamazoo, MI; Niswonger Performing Arts Center, Van Wert, OH; Riviera Theatre, Three Rivers, MI; Sturges-Young Auditorium, Sturgis, MI; Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids, MI; and Tibbits Opera House, Coldwater, MI.

Some members who attended the LHAT regional meeting in Coldwater, MI gather on the terrace in front of Tibbits Opera House.