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The Civic Auditorium

April 9, 2018

  • 329 S. Park Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • (269) 343-1313
  • Website

I’ve always had a weird relationship with the theater.  I fell in love when my high school freshman class took a trip to see Cats at the Chicago Theatre.   That couldn’t be right.  I was a “jock.”  I couldn’t like theater….but man, I did.

I never tried out for the school plays because they always seemed to be during baseball season.  We had some guys who did both, but baseball was my priority.  I still went to every performance though.  If we had a show that played three nights.  I was there all three supporting my friends.

J was not like me.  She was heavily involved with her high school theater productions, so it’s no surprise both of our kids like to perform.  We spend most of our times singing and dancing along with YouTube in our house and the Hamilton soundtrack is on a constant loop.

We needed something for L to do for Spring Break.  We weren’t going anywhere and we didn’t want her home.  J realized she’s old enough for the Civic Theater’s spring break camp so we asked her if she wanted to sign up and we got an emphatic “YES!”

The camps run all week culminating with a performance on Friday night.  I got out of work about an hour early to make the sprint across Bronson Park to get there in time.

The performance was in the Civic Auditorium on the corner of Park and South in downtown Kalamazoo.  I’ve long wanted to go to this performance venue and we’ve talked about going to see a show but now that L is old enough to sit through a performance we would have to worry about B.  It always seems like getting a babysitter is such a hassle so we keep procrastinating.  This spring break camp performance was finally my chance to see what is hidden behind those large concrete walls.

The Civic Auditorium is a pretty amazing space downtown.  The almost 90-year-old 500 seat theater has been home to the Kalamazoo Civic Players since 1931.  The Civic Theater has more space across the street at the Carver Center and the Parish Theater, but the Civic Auditorium is where the big productions are put together.  The design harkens back to the days of the Big Top.  You can see design elements right away in the front doorways that are carved to look like tent flaps.

Right inside those doors is a small entryway where ushers take your tickets.  The box office is on the west side of this lobby.  It’s a single window as there isn’t much walk-up business done on show days anymore.

Just inside these doors is the main lobby area.  There are stairs on one side that lead up to the balcony and down to the restrooms.  The tile floor has carpet runners leading to the black, solid wood doors that lead in to the main auditorium.

There’s a second lobby area on the west side of the building.  There were signs for concessions but this particular show didn’t have an refreshments as it was less than an hour long.  The hallway is used for various things throughout the season as it’s not as highly trafficked as the main entry lobby and the length of the room gives it a lot more space.

The theater is only 500 seats but it feels much bigger.  The design of the theater features imported limestone and lead crystal chandeliers.  The front of the stage (or in theater terms, the proscenium) is about 30 feet across.  Lighting rigs are set up two loge areas on either side of the stage.  It’s a gorgeous theater clearly built in the early 20th century with only a few technological upgrades over the years.

One thing I’m assuming is definitely upgraded from the original is the seating.  There are several rows of stadium style seats that are wider and have thicker cushions than what you’d normally find in a public performance venue.  After long day on my feet, sitting down in one of these with my son on my lap was actually quite comfortable.

This is another one of those places it’s taken us way too long to get to.  L loved her time at The Civic’s theater camp and she’ll be taking more this summer.  We’ve promised her we’ll take her to a show there soon.  I think the theater bug has bitten this one and once it gets her, her brother won’t be far behind.

 

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