The Historic Playhouse at White Lake has been in almost constant operation since its opening in 1916. Built by the renowned Chicago director Frank R. Adams and local business owner James Nufer, its design was copied from Chicago’s LaSalle Theater and was built for professional live theatrical presentations and the new “flickers”, or as we know them today, motion pictures. The Playhouse has been greeting White Lake area audiences ever since.
Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp
In 1973 the community raised funds to renovate the aging Playhouse. Their efforts were matched by a grant from the Howmet Corporation. Operations were then assumed by Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp with the help of a local fund drive and the participation of Whitehall’s largest employer, the Howmet Corporation. The fine arts camp continued to operate the playhouse until August 2006, when the camp built a new modern theater on its campgrounds.
The City of Whitehall
The City of Whitehall, realizing the Playhouse’s importance to Whitehall and all of the White Lake area, accepted the donated ownership from the fine arts camp, and committed to continue Playhouse operations and its annual Summer Fine Arts Festival.
The Playhouse fills a vital need in this city of 2,900. It is located two blocks off the main street of a traditional downtown and is surrounded by quaint B & B's, restaurants, motels, a marina, and a quiet residential neighborhood. The Playhouse is the center for the area’s arts events hosting as it hosts a variety of Michigan musical groups during its fall and spring seasons, and it produces a Summer Fine Arts Festival consisting of a variety of plays during the summer season.
To learn more about area events, please see the Events tab on the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce website.
Renovation, Expansion, Name Change
In 2019 the Playhouse completed a nearly two year, $4M project of renovation and expansion. The 7,000 square foot expansion includes a new box office and concessions, large accessible bathrooms, a 1,500 square foot lobby, rehearsal space and dressing rooms. The original theatre space includes new carpet, seats, sound and lighting equipmen, as well as new stage rigging and drapery. With patron comfort in mind, the heating and cooling systems have been upgraded to high-efficiency units allowing for year-round programming.
Since opening in 1916, the theatre has had many different names including Whitehall’s Community Theatre, the Nufer-Adams Theatre, in the ‘50s and early ‘60s it was known simply as The Playhouse. Following the last renovation in 1973, the theatre was re-named The Howmet Playhouse in recognition of Howmet Corporation’s financial support of the community’s fundraising campaign.
When the Playhouse reopened in June 2019, it did so with a new name: The Playhouse at White Lake. The original architects embraced the craftsman style and we are carrying on that feel both inside and out. The color schemes are warm, traditional craftsman colors that reflect the time in which the playhouse was built. We have chosen to incorporate the dragonfly, a well-known symbol in the arts and crafts movement, into the logo. The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world, symbolizes change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life. We strive to present music and plays that expand our view of the world and brings us closer together as a community. The fact that we can enjoy beautiful White Lake just outside our doors and the abundance of dragonflies along her shores was just one more reason to adopt the symbol.
You Can Help!
Our success is reliant on your patronage and volunteer efforts. If you bought single tickets last year, please consider buying a season Flex Pass and bring some friends. If you bought a Flex Pass last year, buy two and bring even more! As Blanche Dubois says, we “have always relied on the kindness of strangers.” Please consider making a tax deductible donation along with your ticket order. Your continued support literally allows us to keep the doors open. Please visit our Support page for further information.
Help keep the lively arts alive in White Lake and the curtain going up in the historic Howmet Playhouse; still your West Coast center of great professional summer theatre and year around entertainment!