In 2014, those who walked into the former Princeton, Indiana, movie theater at 301 W. Broadway St., would have seen anything but a theater.
“It was down to the dirt floors,” says Logan Vickers, facilities manager and events coordinator for the now Princeton Theatre and Community Center. “There was a lot of mold and it was just not in good shape. A lot of work had to be put in.”
Renovations on the theater — which originally was built in the late 1940s and opened in 1949 as a movie house — began in 2014 with a goal of restoring it into a performing arts theater and community center. Funded by a multi-million dollar Stellar Communities Designation Program grant awarded to the city of Princeton in 2012 (the city also plans to develop its downtown area with other projects including additions to the Bicentennial Plaza and updating gateways into the city with more sidewalks), the city’s mayor at the time Bob Hurst, the Broadway Players theater group, architect Jonathan Young of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf in Indianapolis, and contractors with Danco Construction, Inc. of Evansville worked together to develop a plan for the facility.
“It was a culmination of a lot of people’s hard work,” says Vickers.
The playhouse opened in June 2015 with its first performance at the end of July last year filling the house.
“It was astounding how successful it was, how much the community embraced us and has continued to,” says Vickers. “All of our shows have been very successful.”
Along with hosting the Broadway Players’ productions, the theater and community center has hosted a bridal show, private parties, weddings, showers, karaoke nights, a performance by the Badgett Playhouse of Grand Rivers, Kentucky, and a Christian music concert. The theater seats 280 people and the community center area at the front of the building has access to a kitchen.
The Broadway Players are the performing troupe that calls the playhouse home. Originally started in June 2003 as the Gibson County Theater Company, the group was founded by educators who were working with children who perform.
“They kind of all looked at each other and said, ‘We want to be doing this ourselves. There’s nothing for us to do.’ So they started a theater company for adults,” says Vickers.
For a time, the company performed mainly out of the Princeton Community High School auditorium, then found a home base at the activities building at the Gibson County Fairgrounds. The company now is made up of actors from all over the Tri-State, from Vincennes, Indiana, and Evansville to nearby Illinois. Vickers says everyone from the players to board members helps out and volunteers with running the facility.
“They’ll come and help with organizing or construction on things or help with karaoke nights, checking IDs, and taking cover charges,” says Vickers.
The upcoming season for the company and the theater is packed and exciting, he says. Auditions for the next play, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” were held in early May. Performances will be July 29, 30, and 31, and Aug. 5, 6, and 7. Two other shows are planned for the year: “Blithe Spirit” in October and “The Gift of the Magi” in December.
Vickers says the Badgett players also will return in June for a murder mystery dinner theater show.
“We really needed something like this (in Princeton),” he says of the playhouse. “It really has been a labor of love from the entire community.”
For more information about the Princeton Theatre and Community Center, call 812-635-9185 or visit princetontheatre.org.