RENOVATION UNDERWAY … The deconstruction / renovation process has begun at the Williams County Community Theater. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY CRYSTAL BOWERS)
Information courtesy of Crystal Bowers, Vic-President of the Williams County Theater.
“A little history about the theater: Williams County Community Theater (formerly Williams County Playhouse) was founded in December 1953, by ladies of the Women’s Welcome Club in Bryan, Ohio.
After the success of their first show, they were asked by St. Patrick’s Church to present another play as a fundraiser.
After six weeks of rehearsal, it was all over in two hours and they vowed never again to do just one performance.
They continued to put on plays in various venues, primarily elementary schools, and slowly gained an audience and some experience.
After about five years, influenced by several people from Montpelier, Ohio in the group, the decision was made to move to the Montpelier High School stage, where they performed for another five years.
In 1963, after a series of events, with the help of Bill Winzeler and Bill Hofbauer, the theater purchased an old church building located at 501 S. East Avenue, Montpelier, Ohio.
In six weeks, a tiered floor was built, a stage was purchased from an old Grange Hall, and 100 seats were purchased from an old movie theater – for $1.00 each.
Founder Eleanor Heyman sewed the first curtain, and the men rigged the pulley system to raise and lower it.
As the theater became more and more successful, an addition was put on the east end of the building. This gave much needed backstage and upstairs space, as well as a dressing and make-up space below.
Then in 1977, an addition was added on the west end, giving lobby space on two levels.
Once again space was at a premium, and there was once again a need to offer theater to a wider audience base.
The theater was looking to expand – this time to a new facility at a new location at 208 W. Butler Street in Bryan, Ohio purchased in 2003.
The group remained a profit-making corporation (in name only) for 50 years. Now a new entity, Williams County Community Theater, was created as a 501c3 non-profit corporation.
As Williams County Community Theater (WCCT) we are looking to create a new point of entertainment in Bryan for theater as well as other forms of live art.
In 2010 we created the WCCT Memorial Garden on the southwest corner of the square which we hope will someday be the entrance into our new theater complex.
Fast forward to 2023, and here we are celebrating our 70th Anniversary!
One of the things we are most proud of is our Summer Children’s Theatre Workshop. During the months of June & July we dedicate our theater to teaching children between the ages of 7-17 (ages may vary from year to year) everything there is to know about putting on a show.
Costuming, props, sound, lights, set building- the kids do it all! Just this past year we had 40 local children participate from 5 different school districts.
As for our renovations: How did the renovations come about? A local Boy Scout approached WCCT noticing that some of the exterior of our building was in desperate need of repair.
He thought helping with the repairs could be the perfect Eagle Scout Project. After looking over the project with the help of an experienced adult in the construction world, he soon realized that even small repairs would be too much for him to do, so the project was put on hold.
During the pandemic, we were lucky enough to receive some grants thanks to the hard work of our Treasurer, Kimberly Ann Semer.
With those grants we seized a perfect opportunity to spruce up the outside of our theater, and fix some of the problems we had.
We have such a wonderful location on the corner of the Square in Downtown Bryan, and with so many local businesses on the Square repairing and sprucing up their buildings, we did not want to be the eyesore on the corner.
We reached out to five different construction companies in the area and only one of them returned our call.
We met with Thiel Construction and thought, why not get an estimate for the complete renovation of our building, inside and out!
Since purchasing the former Ranch House in 2003, we have always had the dream/goal of completely flipping the building.
Our primary goals are to move our main entrance to where our memorial garden is located and move the stage from the east side to the west side of the building.
Thiel Construction, knowing that we are a small non-profit theater, did everything they could to present us with a proposed complete renovation that would be within our means.
When they presented us with the final renovations plans and cost, we couldn’t say no. We knew now was the time to make our theater renovation dreams come true!
The Goldsmith Theatre will be completely gutted on the inside as well as the basement filled in. We will have new ADA compliant bathrooms (with more than one stall!).
Our current theater has only one stall for the ladies room, so this is exciting!), a more handicap accessible entrance located through our Memorial Garden, new lobby, all new flooring and carpeting, new auditorium, green room, stage, new plumbing, electrical, lighting, sound system, stage lighting, windows, doors, and for the first time in 20 years we will have an actual backstage area! Everything will be new.
This is an extremely large project for our small but mighty theater to take on. We have estimated that total costs in the end will be roughly $750,000.00 which includes the construction/renovation, new sound system and new stage lighting.
We have always received amazing support from the community over the years, and that support has continued as we start this project.
The Bryan Area Foundation kicked off this project by challenging the community and businesses to match their $100,000 grant by June, 2023.
If we can match the BAF grant of $100,000.00 they will match it with an additional $100,000.00, giving us a total gift of $200,000.00!
We are now hard at work putting together a fundraising committee and reaching out to members of our community who may be interested in donating to renovations.
With our being a 501c3 Non-Profit Corporation, all donations are tax deductible.
If anyone is interested in donating or contributing to our renovations in any way they can reach out to Crystal Bowers, WCCT Vice President at (419)-212-1083, firstname.lastname@example.org; Mary Snider at email@example.com;or by calling our theater office at (419)-636-6400.
We hope to have all renovations completed by the Fall of this year. Thiel Construction started demolition on the interior earlier this month.
While we are under construction, Father John’s Brewery has graciously offered us their sanctuary for this performance season.
We are very grateful to John Trippy and his staff for being so supportive. We performed our Christmas production, The Game’s Afoot, there in December while we were moving everything out of the theater so renovations could begin.
Bill Martin and Spangler Candy Company have also been extremely supportive as they are allowing us to store our belongings in one of their buildings during the renovation as well.
The first show of our 2023 Season, Freud’s Last Session, opens Friday, February 24th on the Father John’s Stage and will be running through March 5th.”