WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTO | ENTER STAGE RIGHT
As a fledgling nonprofit theatre, Enter Stage Right began offering productions in warehouses and parks in Port Huron and surrounding cities. Ten years later, in 2016, the self-described “gypsies” were granted an idyllic home in the redeveloped historical Citadel Building.
The Citadel was originally constructed in 1903 by the Salvation Army. Over the years, it has housed various retail and office spaces. For many years it was vacant, with utilities shut off before the Witt Family added it to their portfolio of properties and spearheaded its $1 million restoration.
The intention was that The Citadel Stage would benefit the community, and the theatre would be the permanent home for Enter Stage Right, which gives other groups access to use the theatre for shows, concerts, and events, according to Regina Spain, executive director at Enter Stage Right (ESR).
Despite this magical partnership, the troupe was silenced temporarily when COVID “took center stage” just over a year ago.
“Our community has responded beautifully and even expanded in so many ways. Also, we’ve had many from near and far donating to keep us afloat! Many of our guests who had already purchased tickets for upcoming shows chose to shift tickets to when we reopen or donate that money outright instead of getting refunds. Most who took refunds commented about needing the money during this time but are excited to repurchase once we’re back,” Spain stated. “We’ve engaged and continued to work on our art and find comfort with those riding out the same roller coaster.”
From Zoom productions – before it was really a thing! – to small protocol-filled film projects to workshops and extra trainings, the troupe has done its best to keep artists and the community engaged. Some of their Zoom and YouTube productions had people as far away as England and Australia tuning in, Spain explained.
“This art is in our blood, something many of us NEED to do,” she stated. “We recognized immediately how important it was for many of our artists to maintain an outlet for that need. None of those things were the caliber that we’re used to at ESR, but they have been lifelines to so many. Part of this art is realizing when our ego and production value need to take a backseat to humanity. This entire year was for sure one of those times.”
“The idea of community goes beyond the Port Huron area for us. It’s being included in the Ghostlight Project of Detroit, receiving grants from arts foundations, local, state, and federal agencies, and random messages that we’re missed by our Canadian guests who cross the bridge to see our shows and enjoy our downtown.
“Our artistic community has also expanded during this time. We were already connecting with theatres and artists around the country, and this year has deepened that immensely, including Antaeus Theatre and Theatre 68 (in Los Angeles), Broadway Teacher’s Workshop (in New York), Theatrical Intimacy Education (numerous locales), and many others,” she stated.
And what does the local scene look like for the coming year?
“I’d say the fall should be on track, but we’ve had to shift so many times that it’s never a done deal until the lights go up before an audience. Part of that is the nature of the two beasts ― live theatre and COVID.”
“To reopen is still a struggle because if just one artist is exposed, quarantine protocol snaps into place. We don’t have the luxury of understudies or double/triple casting, so the “what-if” scenarios are endless. This doesn’t even consider many additional issues. The best we can say is to keep an eye on our website and social media, and as soon as we feel we can do this without endangering people or banging our heads against the walls… we’ll get it going!”
“Right now, we are putting together a calendar of summer events,” said Spain. “In the past, we have done things like costume workshops or have dressed in period clothing and walked around during different events in town.” They hope to continue their annual Summer Shakespeare Festival, Will on the Water.
“ESR continues to work to entertain, enlighten, and inspire our community. We strive to push the limits of what a small not-for-profit company can do. Our success illustrates the support received from the Blue Water area, the vast group of people graciously donating their time, and the power of art to impact our friends and neighbors,” Spain concluded.
Enter Stage Right
609 Huron Avenue
Port Huron MI 48060
(810) 334-6415 l EnterStageRight.org