Players Guild Theatre leaving Canton's Cultural Center for Kent State Stark
Published June 30, 2022, in The Repository. Written by Kelsey Davis. Photo by Ed Balint.
ArtsinStark announced Thursday morning that the Players Guild Theatre will leave the Cultural Center for the Arts in downtown Canton and move to Kent State University at Stark.
After months of review by the Players Guild Board of Directors, the organization decided to leave the 416-seat main stage and 139-seat black box space, notifying ArtsinStark on June 23. Officials from ArtsinStark and the Players Guild met June 29 to discuss details of the separation.
In a news release from ArtsinStark, Players Guild Theatre Board President Dan Sibila stated four reasons for the move.
“Moving to Kent State Stark provides a business model that, one, builds a partnering program with a well-funded higher education system; two, creates a collaborative program with KSU students and faculty that drives our collective goal of arts enrichment within Stark County; three, provides student internships and practicum opportunities with one PGT title being produced in total collaboration with Kent State students and faculty; and four, creates a farm system to cultivate future producers and management, thereby ensuring organizational longevity,” Sibila said.
ArtsinStark President and CEO David Whitehill had nothing but well wishes for the Players Guild.
“I’ll say that ArtsinStark affirms its support for this transition," Whitehill said. "We wish the Players Guild the best in its new home.”
“For 51 years, the Players Guild Theatre has been an integral part of the Cultural Center for the Arts. Many in our community have enjoyed the fantastic shows and programs the Players Guild has offered on the Main Stage and in W.G. Fry Theatre,” Whitehill said.
Performing arts companies moving to university campuses isn’t new. It has become a trend in Northeast Ohio. The University of Akron houses the Rubber City Theatre, and Light Opera is housed at the College of Wooster.
Kent State University at Stark Dean and Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Denise Seachrist is looking forward to the move.
“The KSU Stark students and faculty are excited to welcome the Players Guild Theatre to perform on the Mary J. Timken stage. The new Players Guild business model will complement our fine arts program for both current and future students,” Seachrist said in a news release.
The Players Guild intends to vacate the Cultural Center space on Aug. 31.
When asked if the Players Guild would no longer be attached to ArtsinStark, Whitehill was quick to say that ArtsinStark still supports it.
“We say we’re a countywide organization. We support through advocacy efforts, through funding and grant-making efforts and also our facilities, and certainly, we intend – like with all our arts organizations – to continue to support them in the ways they need to be supported," Whitehill said.
What does this move mean for the Cultural Center for the Arts going forward?
“We’re really at the early stages now that the Players Guild has notified us of their intent to vacate the facility and move their operations to Kent State Stark. We’ll begin our process of exploring the possibilities for the space,” Whitehill said. “It’s an incredible facility. It can be used in a variety of different ways, and certainly, we have a number of community partners that have expressed interest over the years in using that space, so that’s, I guess, the exciting work ahead.”
Earlier this year, ArtsinStark retained Webb Management Services, a national company with representation in Ohio that provides consulting services to the arts and cultural industries, to undergo a three-phase cultural asset study that includes an assessment of the Cultural Center campus.
The assessment was paused during the the Players Guild’s due-diligence period so that a Phase I report can include the future use of the 37,000-square-foot theater space that, in addition to performance spaces, includes offices, rehearsal space, a green room, lobby and dressing rooms.
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