They asked. The community responded. Now they have a permanent home.
In late 2014, the Williamston Theatre
became the official owner of the building at 122 N. Putnam Street. Previous owner Steve Zynda was ready to sell, and gave the group an offer they couldn't refuse.
"Steve offered it to us for far less than what it was worth," says Development Director Emily Sutton-Smith. "He also said he would match anything we raised from donors to make the sale possible."
In just two months, a solid handful of donors and supporters stepped forward to help cover the $150,000 sale price. It's a move, says Sutton-Smith, that will take the theatre to the next level while affirming the place of theatre in the community of about 3,800 residents.
"Owning the building puts us on firmer footing and makes us realize that we are well-established and respected," says Sutton-Smith. "We have amazing supporters and donors. They inspire us to continue doing the work we're doing."
While the group had rented the building from Zynda since 2006 for just $1 a year, Sutton-Smith says having the building as an asset opens up new venues for capital improvements and grants.
"We have some large projects coming up in our five-year plan," she says. "They're things that aren't very sexy but are important to fix, including brick work, windows and roofs. But we're balancing it with smaller projects, too, that will make our theatre space better."
The Williamston Theatre occupies 7,542 square feet, including a basement, first floor performance area, and second floor offices. The theatre seats 100 patrons with performances taking place on a 15-by-15 foot black box stage. The first floor also features two lobbies, with the back lobby serving as an art gallery with works by local artists.
The Williamston Theatre was recently awarded grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs
(MCACA) and the Capital Region Community Foundation
. The theater was also recognized by the American Theatre Wing
as one of the most promising young theatre companies in the country.
Each season, the Williamston Theatre provides dozens of job opportunities to Michigan theatre professionals, both on stage and off, including apprenticeship opportunities to recent college graduates.
Sources: Emily Sutton-Smith, Development Director, Williamston Theatre
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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