In 1955, a group of 9 people asked the Lansing Civic Players if a town of 3,800 people could support community theater when there was a metropolitan area with three such groups only a few miles away. The answer was, “Try it and see.” So, in the summer of 1955, they did, and The Portland Civic Players
(PCP) came to be. The mission of PCP is to produce dramatic, musical, and other artistic entertainment; and contribute to, participate in and develop cultural and educational work through all media, especially live theater, in our community. We pride ourselves in providing quality, affordable entertainment for everyone in our community.
PCP started with ‘0’ capital. During the first 16 years of our existence, we scattered our property in a maze of garages and attics around the community. For some time, we used a one-room country school house whose outdoor plumbing caught fire. We tidied the basement of an unused funeral parlor and rehearsed “The Merry Widow” (our first show) in its chapel. We used an old school house to store our flats.
In 1970, a committee was appointed to check into possible properties to purchase for the group to have a permanent home. On Christmas day of 1970, PCP was contacted by the John Kortes family concerning the Sun Theatre building. The Sun Theater movie house was built in 1948 and had been closed for some time. They wondered if we may be interested in purchasing it. On January 15, 1971, the committee gave its report to the board and membership. It was decided to buy the Sun Theatre.
Over the years, we have made many upgrades and fixes, such as installing a pair of furnaces, partitioning off two dressing rooms and a makeup room in the basement, painting the theatre's interior with fireproof paint, and taking out 186 seats and extended the stage a couple of times. The original seats have been replaced. We built on an addition to the side of the theatre to store flats, and have redesigned the projection room, trying to make good use of our space. And we have air conditioning!!
While we can keep up with general maintenance, some projects go beyond what our general budget can handle. This funding will refurbish the marquee on the building, which is original. Safety concerns and functionality have made replacing the marquee a necessary priority for our organization. The structure is steal and heavy on the building and stressing the building's integrity. The marquee letters are getting more difficult to find, and our Michigan winters take its toll on our supply. The current design, which requires the letters to be manually put up and taken down, is difficult and impractical to be used by the community at large. There are few light bulbs left around the outside of the marquee.
The exterior renovation begins a multi-year, long-term plan to renovate the entire theater, inside and out. The outside is the first phase to make our space safer, last longer and be more inviting, appealing, functional for the organization and the community we serve. While our doors were closed in 2020, we took the opportunity to use some of the money we had already raised to complete some of the necessary exterior work, totaling approximately $16,000. Our building was sealed and painted on three sides, and the walkway on the side was covered in painted galvanized steel siding to extend the structure's life.
The updates and repairs still needed include:
● Replace original knob and tube wiring, ensuring all wiring complies with current safety codes.
● Remove and replace the original heavy steel marquee structure with a more efficient aluminum structure that will not stress the building.
● Replace panels and letters with energy-efficient LED screens.
● Add two lights on the face of the building that will point skyward when lit.
● Add lighting in the original poster display cases.
● Powder coat the metal framing of the LED screens.
● The addition of over 200 individual, energy-efficient LED bulbs on both the bottom of the marquee and surrounding the LED screens restoring the marquee to its original look.
We are certain this project will positively affect the community with greater visibility, appreciation and access to the arts. The theater is in a great, central location in the community across from City Hall. As our footprint has grown in the community, we still sometimes hear, even from people who have lived in Portland for any length of time, “There’s a theater in Portland?” This question helps keep us humble and also helps us to know we still have work to do. We hope that updating the outward appearance of our building will draw more attention to the theater that does exist in and for the community. PCP plans to use the new marquee to assist in advertising other community events. The new screens will be able to rotate multiple events or messages instead of being restricted to one thing until we change the letters. For those renting the theater or using the space for fundraising, the marquee will be available to advertise their events.
Thank you for taking the time to get to know us! Any donation, big or small, is greatly appreciated!! Maybe one day, you will see your name in the theater lights. See you at the theater!!