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National Park Service funding inspection of the Calumet Theatre

At Thursday’s Calumet Village Council work session, the gallery was nearly full. Dozens of people attached to the Calumet Theatre Company, along with Wendy Davis and Sean Gohman from the National Park Service were in attendance.

There has been some discussion among the council that it look at potentially breaking the lease and terminate its relationship with the nonprofit organization in charge of theatre operations. Trustee Andrew Ranville says that after reviewing the document, there needs to be changes made, regardless of whether fences are mended between the two groups. Trustee Elise Matz agreed.

I think that putting in some higher expectations is going to protect everybody; the Village, Theatre Company, the people of Calumet that own the theatre. When I looked at the lease for the first time, I thought it might be what the Odd Couple worked out to divide the apartment, not a partnership.

Park Supervisor Wendy Davis said that the Calumet Theatre is one of only three stages in the country that is located within a national park. She said that the village, and all taxpayers, have a vested interest in keeping it vibrant. Davis says it shares company with some of the nation’s most historic properties, such as the site where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

It is just as important as Ford’s Theatre in the great scheme of preservation.

Davis warned that the building needs serious help. The inspection process being conducted by UP Engineers and Architects will last for months, probably into January. It is being funded by the National Park Service and costs could run to $50,000. The money was shifted from another project within the agency and does not represent new spending. Davis asked for there to be no interference by any of the involved parties.

The Park Service has been concerned from the beginning that this be about the voice of the building being heard. Not about the voice of the board being heard or somebody who has a plan or idea, but the voice of the building speaking its condition to architects and engineers who have experience.

Lastly, Ranville asked Calumet Theatre Company Board President Dan Jamison and Marketing Director Bethany Jones for a list of officers. Dianne St. Amour is the new secretary and Michele Southerland is now treasurer.

Jones says the new group is qualified to help put the organization back on track.

The theatre shut down without professional staff in place. That’s why there was such a lapse. There weren’t people with the background that our new members have in the theatre that really have a greater understanding of the performing arts, how to staff and manage a theatre.

The meeting lasted about 75 minutes.

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