Porthouse Theatre aims for funds from a Capital Campaign

Jack Kopanski

The Capital Campaign

This summer’s season at Porthouse Theatre will have an added emphasis to go along with the three productions they are putting on. For this summer, the theatre is in the midst of a $1,000,000 Capital Campaign aimed at renovating multiple aspects and areas of the theatre’s grounds.

Restroom and box office renovations, a new roof for the theatre and a new parking lot are all the end goals of the campaign. According to the campaign’s page on the Kent State website, the new box office was finished in Spring 2015, making itself ready for last summer’s season. The new restrooms are currently under construction and aim to be ready for this upcoming season.

What still remains will likely take up until the 2018 season, which just so happens to be Porthouse’s 50th anniversary season. Thanks to a donation of $250,000 dollars from the Gene Hackett Family Foundation, the campaign is able to follow this timetable. All-in-all, the campaign has currently raised $450,000 dollars.

Director at both Kent State and Porthouse, Terri Kent, says the campaign running through this summer makes it necessary for a bigger draw from ticket purchases this season. The need for this bigger draw played a part in the selection of the pieces for this summer.

“We need a really fiscally successful summer because of our Capital Campaign,” Kent said. “So we’ve gone with some real popular fare for this summer. We need to look at shows that will turn a profit, or at least break even, while also giving something new to our subscribers and patrons.”

Anyone interested in donating to the Capital Campaign can do so here.


The Summer Schedule

“Sister Act,” “Ring of Fire” and “Footloose” are on the slate for this summer at Porthouse. Two members of the Kent State theatre faculty, Eric Van Baars and Kent, are directing the first and last performance respectively. Kent will also be performing in “Sister Act.”

Van Baars said there is plenty to look forward to when it comes to directing “Sister Act.”

“Working with great talent and dear friends (is what I’m most looking forward to), Van Baars said. “The cast, led by the incomparable Colleen Longshaw, and featuring a roster of Porthouse favorites and friends – Terri Kent, Rohn Thomas, Jim Weaver, Tracee Patterson – is an outstanding group of actors. I am thrilled to spend a few weeks with them all.”

“Sister Act” is based on the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, and tells the story of a nightclub dancer that witnesses a murder, and is placed in protective custody in a convent full of nuns.

“Ring of Fire” tells the story of Johnny Cash through only his music, performed by a small ensemble.

Finally, “Footloose” is the classic American musical based on the movie starring Kevin Bacon, and tells the story of a kid from the city moving to a small town and having to adjust to their rules.

“By Terri choosing “Sister Act” and choosing “Footloose,” sort of piggybacking off the success for “Hairspray” last summer,” said Joni Koneval, Marketing Associate for the School of Theatre and Dance as well as Porthouse. “You’re bringing in a whole new group of people.”

 For “Sister Act” and “Footloose,” the first and third performances of the season respectively, those shows will be done by company members, and members of the Young Professional Company.

For “Ring of Fire,” the theatre will be working with an organization out of Columbus, the Contemporary American Theatre Company (CATCO), and will be directed by Steven C. Anderson, the director of CATCO. Before taking the stage at Porthouse, their presentation of “Ring of Fire” will tour briefly in Columbus first.

The schedule that the workers have to follow will be rigorous.

“They rehearse from 10-6, every day except for Monday,” Koneval said. “When they’re not working, they’re performing. So they’ll go from 10 to about 5:30, have an hour to an hour and a half for lunch, and then you’re called to the stage around seven.”

Porthouse relies heavily on subscription purchases for the summer season, and is currently ahead of where they usually are come this time of year.

“Typically right about now we’re around 2,900-3,000 subscriptions,” Koneval said. “Right now we have about 3,200 subscriptions. That usually evens out 3,500, and we fill in the rest with single ticket orders.”

Single tickets and subscriptions can be purchased either by calling 330-672-3884 or at the Porthouse Theatre box office.


Working at Porthouse

While the onstage talent is taken from outside companies, work done behind the scenes still belongs to students. Both undergraduate and graduate students from Kent State and elsewhere, can apply for jobs at Porthouse that include working with scenes, props, lighting, carpentry, and many more.

Perhaps the biggest role the students had to play this year, was in designing the set for “Ring of Fire.”

“We built the set for the second show already,” Koneval said. “It had to be ready for rehearsal May 6. They actually built the set in the last three weeks so that it’s ready.”

Koneval said that usually, major set design does not begin until once the Porthouse season begins around the end of May.

However, since the company out of Columbus that will be doing “Ring of Fire” will be showing before coming to Porthouse, everything has to be in order by the time they come.

Zahra Hakki, a sophomore theatre design major, has worked at Porthouse first hand, and considered the experience very rewarding.

“I worked at Porthouse last summer as an assistant scenic artist,” Hakki said. “Overall, the experience was fantastic. I had just finished my freshman year where I went from a nobody to proving myself ready and able to work at a professional theatre.”

Students in the Kent and Cuyahoga Falls area can apply to work for Porthouse on their website, porthousetheatre.com.

Jack Kopanski is the performing arts reporter for The Kent Stater, contact him at [email protected].