January 2009: South Haven Lighthouse, painting by Jeanne Tubman
Header image: South Haven Lighthouse, painting by Jeanne Tubman

Featured Artist: Chippewa Theater Guild

The Chippewa Theater Guild's new theater at 700 Eureka Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI..

The Chippewa Theater Guild's new theater at 700 Eureka Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

The Chippewa Theater Guild:
New Name, New Building, Same Goal

by Jessica Hirt

The Chippewa Theater Guild, formerly known as the Sault Community Theater, defines itself as a small, amateur adult theater. They have put on at least one show per year since the spring of 1979. Recently, there was a short time period in which the theater group did not meet or put on any productions, but they have returned to the stage in full force.

The past year has brought on many challenges and changes; the Guild has acquired a home and a new name. These events have the Guild ecstatic about their future and hoping to continue encouraging and spreading their love of theater—in all aspects—to the public.

The Guild is composed of volunteers. Local people gather together to bring their love of theater to others, and all of the directors, actors, stage hands, technicians, publicists, costume and set designers, and many others take extra time out of their day to make each play a success.

Among those volunteers who continually seek to encourage theater is the Chippewa Theater Guild’s board. Made up of seven people, the role of the board is to handle monetary affairs, make decisions about the plays being presented, and make major purchases. The volunteers who produce the play are local, and though they define themselves as amateur, their dedication is not.

This is clearly evident in the enthusiasm about the Guild’s newly purchased building. Located at 700 Eureka Street, it is directly behind the campus of Lake Superior State University and was formerly known as the Grace Baptist Church. While one may find it odd to have a theater in a church, Colleen Lavey (who serves as vice president on the board) states that it is ideal. The church has great acoustics, a natural stage, and a high enough ceiling for two story sets. Another great feature is the balcony, which can be used as technician’s booth to run the stage and lights.

The church offers many rooms for storage, and two different rehearsal spaces: one upstairs on stage, and the other downstairs. The church, Lavey pointed out, will serve their needs very well. Instead of working around others’ schedules, the Guild is able to schedule not only their own productions, but other shows in this new building, earning money and receiving publicity at the same time.

One of the biggest points that Lavey stressed was that this theater group isn’t just for the professionals; it’s for the inexperienced as well. Guild members are always willing to train new people, and they most definitely welcome new ideas. More volunteers mean more ideas and therefore better productions.

With the acquisition of the new building, the Guild is looking forward to the future, hoping that some day they will be able to offer workshops in all areas of theater, not just the typical seminars on acting and directing. The goal of these sessions is to “promote the education of theater.” That goal is being attained even now. The Guild allows anyone interested to audition for a role, and Lavey states that they try not to be too intimidating at auditions because “theater is scary enough.” It’s usually a straight audition—an audition without prepared material—and although they can’t guarantee someone a part, they can and will give feedback on what one did right, what they liked, and where he or she can improve. Positive criticism is helpful to the actor and can better prepare one for future auditions.

Jessica Hirt is a SAAC intern from LSSU. This is her third Featured Artist article.

See the Artistic Opportunities page: the Guild needs a sign for the theater!

Last updated: January 7, 2009

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: saac@saultarts.org Phone: (906) 635-1312