LISBON - The Stage Left Players of Lisbon recently burned the mortgage papers for the Trinity Playhouse as the result of a generous donation from patron Kathleen Presley. Presley's daughter had been affiliated with the theater ensemble prior to her mother's grand contribution which has allowed Stage Left to focus on an elaborate renovation project for the historical site.
The playhouse was built in 1869 and served as a church until 1992 when two local congregations merged to a single Presbyterian church in Lisbon. The building, still owned by the church, became a venue for theater performances and various attractions for the next 15 years. However, operating expenses became too costly for the church, and in 2007 Stage Left Players purchased the building for $11,000.
"We had really established ourselves at the church, and they wanted to do something permanent with the building. They were all very generous and it really worked out well for everyone involved," said Kandace Cleland, president of Stage Left Players.
According to Cleland, since acquiring the property, paying the mortgage was a major priority, but Stage Left may have struggled to do so without financial assistance.
"We had enough money in the bank to write the check and get the mortgage out of the way ourselves. However if we would have done that we would have been left with little operating expenses. I know we certainly wouldn't be doing all of the wonderful renovations that we are doing now," said Cleland.
According to Cleland, the first addition to the building was a much-needed air conditioning unit.
"It would just get too hot in the building during the summer. We would try to finish all of our shows by June, but then we were really pushing our season, which we didn't want to do," said Cleland.
After the air conditioning was installed, Stage Left added a second restroom to the main floor of the building. Volunteer Bruce Houston built the wooden stalls, and the plumbing was handled by JP Plumbing.
"That's the neat thing down here - we have such great volunteers and such energy. If you just say 'let's do it' - it happens," said Cleland.
In the following months volunteers replaced the playhouse's front doors and painted a portion of the building yellow.
"The old white paint was beginning to chip and needed to be repainted anyway. We chose yellow because though we are very dedicated to preserving the church, at the same time we want to show people that this is a playhouse," said Cleland.
Stage Left still plans to renovate the main lobby, add improved stage lighting and an outdoor marquee.
"Our list of ideas goes on forever. We get one thing done and another idea is already popping up," said Cleland.
Stage Left still has several months to renovate before their fall season begins. Their next show, "A Streetcar Named Desire," will open Oct. 17.
"With so many local playhouses shutting down and cutting back I'm so grateful for what we're accomplishing here at Trinity. This is a very exciting time for us, and we are extremely fortunate," said Cleland.
The playhouse is planning to hold a children's medieval fair during Lisbon's Johnny Appleseed Festival Sept. 19 and 20. Stage Left also hopes to begin giving tours of the playhouse in the near future. The tours will include a short skit written by Cleland and performed by Stage Left Players explaining the history of the building.