Community theatre finds temporary venue

T-R FILE PHOTO Pete Grady’s portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant in a one-man play will be Marshalltown Community Theatre’s return show on Thursday at the Miller Middle School Auditorium, their new temporary venue.

While many theater companies are dusting off their stages and bringing back shows as in-person gatherings return to normal, the Marshalltown Community Theatre is feeling the effects of a double whammy.

Last August as the theatre’s board of directors were contemplating how to open back up responsibly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the derecho hit. The Martha-Ellen Tye Playhouse located in the Fisher Community Center received significant roof damage and the stage was completely destroyed, needing replacement.

Renovations are underway at Fisher Community Center with plans to reopen next year as the Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center. The facility will contain the new Martha-Ellen Tye Playhouse, but until then the community theatre needs a location to use in the meantime. The board found a temporary one.

The Miller Middle School’s auditorium will be the community theatre’s new temporary space and the first show is Thursday night.

“We’ve kind of been hanging out in limbo and I’ve had people ask me, ‘When are you guys going to do something,'” Vice President of Marshalltown Community Theatre’s Board of Directors Hobz Hooley said. “It’s good to be able to have something that we can point to and say, ‘Yes, we are still here.'”

While Hooley is thrilled to have a usable space, he said the Miller Middle School auditorium is in need of some work. He said the space is starting to look “worn and tired,” and the technological capabilities and dressing room space is not up to ideal standards for a community theatre.

Using the auditorium as a temporary space, Hooley hopes to help.

“We’re thinking maybe we can kill two birds with one stone,” he said. “By giving us an opportunity to actually put something on, we can also help with a little bit of fundraising and awareness about the state of that auditorium.”

Thursday night’s show at the new venue will raise funds for the Miller Middle School auditorium.

Titled “Unconditional Surrender: A Visit with Ulysses S. Grant,” it is a one-man show recounting the life of the 18th President of the United States in a humorous and informative portrayal.

Pete Grady, the author and performer, is also a member of the Marshalltown Community Theatre Board of Directors. He’s excited to return to the stage and help raise funds for the auditorium.

“Miller is an old auditorium that needs some tender love and care, but it really has some possibilities and I’m sure it has quite a history of good theater,” Grady said.

While he’s happy to use the auditorium, he said the community theatre still needs a permanent home.

The theatre’s board of directors will meet this week to determine what the upcoming season may or may not look like.

“Until we get a sense of what we can do and where we can do it, we can’t really plan a season, and God knows we want to plan a season,” Grady said.

Thursday night’s show begins at 6 p.m. with $10 admission per person and $5 admission for ages younger than 12. Food trucks Gyro Palace, Big Acai Bowls and Clare’s Tenderloins will be on-site at 5 p.m.


Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com.


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