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Follow the progress of our Capital Campaign Renovation Project …

From the Managing Director

We will post periodic updates on the renovation project on this page. You may view renovation project photos on the project photos page.

March 1, 2019

Construction Update Addition

The addition is 85% complete. Drywall is installed and mudding almost complete. The dressing rooms, green room/rehearsal space, and back hallways are painted. The cabinets and counter tops in the dressing rooms and green rooms are installed. Tile is being installed this week in the bathrooms and the rest of the cabinets will be installed later this week. We expect the addition to be completed within the next month (minus carpet which will go in last).  

Existing Structure

A lot of work has been done to fix the masonry on the existing building (filling cracks, etc) and a good portion has been painted. The balcony has been re-built and is now dry walled. The new inner lobby, manager’s office, and accessible bathroom are dry walled and ready for finishing. The original doors and transom windows have been restored and will be re-installed when the interior construction is completed.

Structural Fixes

The 102-year-old building has two girder trusses that support the ceiling that need to be reinforced. We’ve been aware of this issue for some time and we’ve been working with the structural engineers, architects, and construction management team to address the issues. The solution requires us to install steel under and around the trusses to prevent them from further sagging and rotation. These trusses rest on two columns: one in balcony, one on stage. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that these columns will need to be strengthened in order to support the added weight of the girders/steel. This process involves adding larger footings below each column, wrapping steel around the columns, and putting plywood above the stage opening to solidify the structure. We are moving ahead with these structural improvements with the knowledge that this is not only necessary for the immediate future, but will ensure the longevity of the theatre.

Once this portion of the project is completed, teams will still need time to finish installation of lights, sound, rigging, drapes, carpets, and seats. Additional time will be allotted for moving back into the space and training.

With all of this in mind, I have decided to delay programming at the playhouse through May. I will keep you updated as we move through the final stages of this project.

For me, this is a once in a lifetime project and, while I’m disappointed it’s not going to be done when originally thought, I trust the process and our team to make sure it’s done right.

November 24, 2918

What an extraordinary year we’ve had! The renovation project is progressing well and we are looking forward to re-opening the updated and expanded facility in 2019. We are grateful to all who donated to our capital campaign to save our community jewel. When complete, we will host a community open house to introduce you to the new, safe, and accessible theater and are anxious to hear what types of programming you want to see at the theater.

As we look toward scheduling for next year, we need your financial support. Your gift to the Howmet Playhouse goes to work immediately towards mounting productions, employing professional instructors and performing artists, and keeping ticket prices affordable. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of $30, $50, $102 (in honor of the theater’s 102nd year), or more. Every single contribution is important, deeply appreciated and, without exaggeration, absolutely vital to the ongoing viability of our organization. All donors are recognized on our website and in our summer programs.

Although we couldn’t be in our own theater, we were able to continue our annual Summer Theatre Festival this past summer at Whitehall High School. Six shows in six weeks. Each year, your support allows us to hire dozens of actors, designers and technicians, and to a provide theatre arts education workshop for students ages 10-18. Plans are underway for next years’ festival to be held at the newly renovated theater and we look forward to seeing you there.

Please visit our SUPPORT US page to learn more about how you can help keep the Howmet Playhouse a thriving, vibrant, and extraordinary creative home for all! From that page you will be able to contribute online or find the information about mailing a check to the Playhouse.

As always if you have any questions you may use this website to Contact Beth.

November 6, 2018

What an amazing last five weeks we've had at the Playhouse! Crews having been speeding along, both inside and outside at the theater. New, insulated roofing panels and shingles have been installed and the snow melt system under the sidewalks and loading dock are complete. Lots of progress inside with electrical and plumbing, too. Asphalt will be going in in the next week or so. We are pleased to have such great contractors working with us on this project.

October 12, 2018

As you might recall, summer's heat and winter's cold have always proven difficult at the Playhouse. One of the large components of our renovation and expansion is new heating/cooling/ventilation systems (HVAC). Boardwell Mechanical Services, Inc. of Montague, were awarded the contract this past spring. Underground duct work and placement of the new, energy-efficient HVAC units was completed in September. In 2017, the theater received a a matching grant $70,000 grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) for the purchase of the five new units.

September 12. 2018

The Howmet Playhouse has been awarded two grants from the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA). The grants were awarded through the MCACA peer review process and were two of 561 applications to compete for MCACA fiscal year 2019 funding.

The theater received a $15,000 project grant to support the 2019 Summer Theatre Festival that will allow the playhouse to compensate directors, actors, artists, and technicians. This is the fourth year the organization has applied for and received funding for the Festival that draws thousands of visitors, locals, and guests to our lake shore community.

The theater is undergoing at $3.7 million renovation project that will make it a fully accessible facility with a large lobby, box office/concessions, new seating, restrooms, stage, and theatrical equipment. The second grant award of $90,000 will support the purchase of new audio visual equipment for the space. This will include a hearing loop system that will provide support to those with hearing aids and those who need assisted listening devices.

“One of our biggest challenges to welcoming everyone into the theater was our lack of accessible bathrooms and a non-working assistive listening system,” said Beth Beaman, Managing Director of the theater. “This grant will allow us to upgrade our entire audio and video systems and provide much-needed support to those with hearing difficulties.”

The MCACA peer review process allows for each grant application to be competitively considered by a panel of in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals. This ensures the taxpayers, who support this project through legislative appropriations, and all other visitor or residents in Michigan will have the highest quality of arts and cultural experiences.

August 9, 2018

Work on the playhouse has been ongoing since our last show there in September 2017. The demolition portion is completed, and the addition and renovation is progressing very well. We have awarded all of the bids and are within budget; this is due in large part to the work of our construction manager, Brad VanBergen of Winberg Construction. Local contoractors have worked with us to get the best prices for both goods and services.

We have had our bumps along the way. This is to be expected due to the age of the building and the nature of the project. Upon dropping the existing ceiling (removing 25,000 lbs of weight), we found that the girders that support the trusses in the ceiling needed attention. After much back and forth between our architects, engineers, and our team, we have developed a fix that will addrtess the issue and ensure the structural integrity of the 102-year-old building.

Upon completion, the existing structure will have new theatre seats, carpet, updated rigging and drapery, lighting and audio visual systems, expanded accessible seating and a non-gender specific accessible bathroom right off the auditorium. The new addition will house a 1500 sq ft lobby, concessions and box office, cloak room, and accessible restrooms (five for men/seven for women). The new configuration will allow for backstage access for performers of all abilities, a large rehearsal space, and dressing rooms.

We look forward to opening the doors to your new community playbouse in the coming months!

January 25, 2018

Work continues this week at the Playhouse. The December snow slowed things down a bit but
crews are at work inside. The old projection booth was removed today and the team will be removing the old balcony floor in order to build new, level platforms for seating. Keep checking back for updates and photos!

December 1, 2017

Thanks to the generosity of many we have exceeded our $3.6M fundraising goal. We have raised $3,700,000 to renovate the Playhouse! The project is underway with plans to complete in Summer 2018.

After more than 3.5 years of planning and a capital campaign, we have begun work to save our community playhouse. (Follow the link to see photos of the work). We know many of you have had the chance to see the renovation/addition plans at the Playhouse this past summer and they are currently on display at Whitehall City Hall. A summary of the plans folllows.

In order to provide year-round programming, improve safety and become code compliant, the project includes new HVAC, plumbing, electrical, theater systems (drapes, lights, sound) as well as a 5,000 sq ft addition to the south. The original facade will be visible through the expanded glassed-in lobby; great care is being taken to restore, as best we can, the look of the 1916 entrance with the original doors. A new box office, concessions, and restrooms, as well as handicap access to the stage, will be included in the addition. A green room/rehearsal space can be used for classes and community gatherings. Adequate backstage dressing rooms and restrooms are included. A new, paved parking lot will provide safe access for patrons with mobility challenges as well as more onsite parking.

If you are still interested in supporting our capital improvements, you may do so at the Community Foundation for Muskegon County website; be sure to select the Howmet Playhouse Capital Non-Endowed Fund. If you prefer you can send a check to us directly at 405 E Colby, Whitehall, Michigan 49461. IRA disbursements, stock transfers, cash, check or credit cards are accepted.

Over 100 years ago, the people of this community had a dream that now resides at the corner of Mears and Slocum. They said "Yes" and we are forever grateful that they did. We thank our donors and supporters for continuing to believe it's worth saving. Should you have any questions, please contact me using this website or call me at (231) 894-4048. I will be glad to walk you through the plans and answer your questions!

Beth Beaman
Managing Director

Learn more about Our Capital Campaign for the Future

View the Capital Campaign Donors List