The Paw Paw Playhouse is celebrating its re-opening on Saturday, January 27th. The theatre had been vacant since February of last year. Now the building has a new owner, a variety of acts, and a bakery downstairs. What it doesn’t have is its original tenants. After 45 years, the Paw Paw Village Players have left the playhouse.
Owner Melinda Figgins opened up her bakery and chocolate shop, All Stirred Up, on the first floor of the playhouse this month.
She's a realtor in Portage who had always dreamed of opening up a bakery, but she wanted something else to offer customers too.
Figgins says when she looked inside the theatre, she knew she had found it.
“I walked upstairs and it just like took my breath away — I loved this theatre space,” she said.
So Figgins got to work. She purchased new lighting and sound equipment for the theatre and hired someone to book a variety of events — musicians, magicians, comedy shows, fashion shows, and more.
While they’re watching, attendees can eat desserts and have cocktails from the bar downstairs.
It’s a big change from when it was the home of the Paw Paw Village Players. After more than four decades, they parted ways with the playhouse.
Don Stine is the president of the players’ board. He says for a long time the troupe was the playhouse’s only tenant.
So when the players couldn’t make rent, the previous owner, Jim Charles, would let it slide. He says Figgins was not as willing to do that.
“We weren’t flush with cash at the time so the rent was pretty high," said Stine. "She wasn’t raising the rent on us, but it just became pretty obvious to us fairly quickly that it was time for us to think about a new venue.”
The Paw Paw Village Players now put on shows at Freshwater Community Church — which coincidentally was the first building they performed in back in 1969.
Roger C. Henderson is also on the players’ board. He says sometimes it’s hard to share space with church activities, but the church does have a few things the playhouse never did. For one, it’s accessible to people with disabilities.
“There’s no way to get upstairs to where the theatre proper is — auditorium is — except via stairs,” said Henderson of the Paw Paw Playhouse.
Christine Santos is the Paw Paw Playhouse's director of events, marketing, and sales. She says the playhouse will still be open to having theatre troupes perform — including the Village Players.
Santos says the players only had a few shows a year. She and Figgins wanted to create something the community could enjoy year-round.
“Myself and many others love entertainment downtown Kalamazoo. They have amazing shows, amazing artists, but it’s not always drive-able," said Santos.
"We live in this wonderful weather right now and to have something close by — they’re very excited. And that it’s not the same thing all the time.”
The Paw Paw Playhouse will have its grand opening on Saturday. It’ll include performances by The Dacia Bridges Project and by Kalamazoo Soundbuilders A Capella.
The Paw Paw Village Players will have its annual One Acts Play Festival on February 23rd and 24th.