Church to become performing arts center

REED CITY — When one door closes, another always opens.

The First Congregational Church in Reed City is closing its doors and opening them to Crossroads Theatre Guild, a group of actors who plan to turn the church into a performing arts theatre.

“It was getting to a point where we couldn’t support our church,” said Roger Hicks, First Congregational Church pastor. “We wanted to give it to something that would be great for the community.”

For more than ten years the Crossroads Theatre Guild has gone without a place to call home. In 1986 the group of actors rented the Masonic lodge to use for performances, which stood on the second floor of a building that was torn down in the late 1990s to make room for the expansion of Yoplait.

Since then the guild has performed at various venues, but the frequency declined when they lost their own space.

“It’s hard to do a production when you don’t have a base,” said Deb Lockwood, guild president .

The guild’s last performance was in 2010 when they performed “Lafferty’s Wake” at the community building at the Osceola 4-H FFA Fairgrounds in Evart. The group plans to make a comeback in the area with the new facility.

“This is coming at an opportune time,” Lockwood said . “People are still asking when we’re doing our next production. When they stop asking, that’s when you have a problem.”

The church located on the corner of Upton Avenue and Park Street, will be officially sold to the guild for a very small fee within the next few weeks, pending the wrapping up of a few last details.

The guild, which was the first entity in the Reed City area to bear the word “Crossroads” in its title, will not use the theater for their own performances alone. They plan to host a myriad of performing arts groups, such as local dance groups, choirs and drama teams to create a center of arts for the community for years to come.

The guild has plans to renovate the church, but will keep the stained glass windows and pews. The total project will cost around $100,000 and will include an extension of the stage, constructing accessible bathrooms, building a ramp and installing stage lighting. The group has a small startup budget and plans to raise the rest through fundraisers and grants. The whole project will not be completed before the group hosts their first production.

“Once we have the stage put in, we want to get going with performing arts as soon as possible,” said Timothy Locker, the group’s founding father and director of productions.

The group plans to have their first production in the theatre before the end of this year. Ideas for the group’s first production in their new home range from a special holiday show to performing the guild’s first performance when it started 26 years ago, a romantic comedy called “You can’t take it with you.”

In the future, the group plans to make the theatre accessible for those with hearing and vision impairments by printing large-print programs, marking steps and amplifying sound in a section of seating for the hearing impaired.

“We want to make the arts available to everybody,” Lockwood said.

Throughout the guild’s 26 years of existence, actors of all ages have been involved in the productions. One actress who began her career as a teen in the theatre guild’s productions in the 1990s has since gone on to be on national television, in episodes of the TV series’ “S.W.A.T.” and “Cold Case.”

“It’s possible in a small town to go big,” Lockwood said. “Community theatre is a great place to start.”

The Crossroads Theatre Guild is a 501(c)(3) organization. Those interested in joining the guild or donating to the performing arts center can contact Lockwood at (231) 734-9859 or Locker at (231) 832-3145.