More than 600 people crowded into the Croswell Opera House in Adrian on May 6 to celebrate the historic theater’s reopening after a yearlong renovation project.
“What a pleasure and an honor to welcome this sold-out house for this once in a lifetime event for this great theater,” Croswell artistic director Jere Righter said just before an opening-night performance by the band Under the Streetlamp.
Righter addressed all of those who have supported the theater over the years, not just during its most recent renovation campaign but going back to the 1960s, when a group of citizens banded together to save the building from demolition.
“This building is yours,” she said. “You deserve it, you have earned it, you have supported it, you have loved it, and I am so grateful.”
Lead donor Julia Argyros called the Croswell’s story “a love story.”
“People loved this little theater so much that they couldn’t stand the thought of it being a parking lot,” she said.
The Croswell was built in 1866 and is the oldest theater in Michigan. It was originally an all-purpose community hall that hosted plays, concerts, festivals, and high school graduations as well as well-known speakers like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. It was converted into a movie theater in the early 20th century, and then revived as a home for live theater in the 1960s. This year marks the Croswell’s 50th season of live theater since 1968.
Almost $8.5 million was raised in the Croswell’s recent capital campaign. Construction costs totaled about $6.3 million. The remainder paid for furniture and equipment, helped cover operating costs while the Croswell was closed and producing shows at alternate locations, and will establish a permanent endowment for long-term financial stability.
The recently completed renovations were aimed at making the Croswell viable as a 21st-century producing theater while preserving its historic character. The changes included adding more restrooms, installing an elevator, and creating new public spaces inside the building, including a studio theater that will serve as a second performance venue. Electrical, lighting and sound systems were also upgraded.
The Croswell Opera House is at 129 E. Maumee St., Adrian. For more information about the Croswell or upcoming productions, go to croswell.org or call 517-264-7469.