With over 50 years experience, Old Town Playhouse has thrived, presenting hundreds of productions, all due to extraordinary talent, community support and volunteer spirit. Thousands have joined through the decades – as actors, directors, singers, dancers, musicians, producers, set builders, ushers, costumers, fundraisers and other volunteers helping with lights and sound, working in the box office, sitting on boards and joining the audience.
We are the community's playhouse...and the community enables growth and makes us strong!
The history of the Old Town Playhouse began in April 1960 when Elnora Milliken, who earlier founded the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, gathered Interlochen faculty and 40 local theatre buffs to stage the play You Can’t Take It with You at a local school. Early seasons of the Traverse City Civic Players entertained the community with such favorites as Arsenic and Old Lace, and The Mousetrap. The Players' home stage moved from the high school to the Park Place Dome, the home to Cherry County Playhouse, and broadened its offerings to include musicals with the opening of Guys and Dolls in 1969. The Traverse City Civic Players soon sought a home with larger facilities, and found that space in the early 1970s, first sharing the First Christian Church and subsequently purchasing it in 1975. Changing the name, Old Town Playhouse has been home to community theatre ever since.
As the community has grown, so has the demand for quality theatre and performance. The region attracts highly trained artists who seek the opportunity to continue performing and artistically challenging themselves. Old Town Playhouse has benefited from their contribution and leadership in consistently raising standards and expanding theatrical offerings. The Studio Theatre was introduced in 1978 to offer audiences an intimate theatre experience while also providing a training ground for local actors, directors and writers. The Traverse City Children/Teen Theatre was incorporated as the educational arm of Old Town Playhouse in 1993 and offers an ambitious slate of workshops, classes and productions for area young people. Today, the Playhouse presents five MainStage, three Studio & three children's theatre productions each year - with 85 performances annually.
The summer of 1998 proved to be a pivotal point in OTP history. Due to new fire code restrictions, the theatre was closed and faced more than $350,000 in required improvements. That season, the OTP “took the show on the road,” borrowing performance spaces and many speculated whether the organization could survive. A huge vote of community support and a major capital campaign in 1999 allowed the aging playhouse to undergo the renovations to meet safety codes. One year later, the doors reopened with the musical Nunsense and ticket holders and donors have increased ever since.
Now over 50 years old, the Old Town Playhouse has thrived – presenting more than 275 productions – all due to extraordinary talent, community support and volunteer spirit. Thousands have joined through the decades – as actors, directors, singers, dancers, musicians, producers, set builders, ushers, costumers, fundraisers and other volunteers helping with lights and sound, working in the box office, sitting on boards and joining the audience. While some members have gone on to careers in the performance entertainment fields throughout the country, the majority have bettered themselves in their workplaces and the community, enriched by their experiences here. We are the community's playhouse...and the community enables growth and makes us strong.
Old Town Playhouse is to be a volunteer-based organization promoting quality community theatre experiences for the people of Northwest Michigan by providing educational opportunities and entertainment in the theatrical arts.
We Strive to:
- Remain a volunteer based organization representative of all segments of our community
- Increase awareness of community theatre and its benefits
- Expand quality programming
- Improve the playhouse facility in order to enhance production quality and better support ancillary activities such as rehearsal and workshops
- Maintain strong management of the theatre
- Maintain financial stability
- Ensure the long-term financial integrity of the playhouse by raising sufficient funds to improve the building and create an endowment to support its operation
Old Town Playhouse
Main Stage Theatre
148 E. Eighth Street
at the corner of
Cass & East 8th St.
OTP Studio Theatre
620 Railroad Place
at the corner of
East 8th and Woodmere