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AKA Playhouse Theater
Source: Muskegon Chronicle
A man in the audience on reopening night of the historic Howmet Playhouse under new ownership stood up, got the band's attention and requested that the volume be increased on the flutist's microphone because the audience couldn't hear her during the previous song. It seemed to tie in with the theme of the night: White Lake-area residents don't sit idly by when they believe something isn't quite right. They get involved.
That type of community involvement, in essence, saved the 91-year-old downtown theater. Whitehall city officials, who own the building and are operating it for the first time, point to the community's support from both sides of the White River -- Whitehall and Montague -- as being the real reason another summer season of plays is scheduled.
When Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp board members announced last year they were looking to get rid of the playhouse at 304 S. Mears after opening a new facility on their campus, residents voiced concerns and community leaders met to discuss the issue. Responding to the public outcry, the Whitehall City Council accepted the donation from the camp.
"The community response has been outstanding," said Tom Harryman, playhouse manager. "I know this is being done by the city of Whitehall, but the community of White Lake has been very responsive to the saving of the playhouse." Harryman is a Muskegon native and longtime professional actor who for about 15 years ran the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Muskegon.
Whitehall Mayor Mac Hatch also has been impressed by the community's support, calling it the most enthusiasm he has witnessed for a project in his 35 years in the area. He is proud that residents stepped forward immediately rather than wait for traditional nonprofit groups and private businesses to take the lead. "This has been grassroots," Hatch said of the support and fundraising efforts to save the playhouse. "It's everybody. Now the biggies are showing up, too."