Peoria Players Theatre is proud to be Illinois’ oldest continuously running community theater—and the fourth oldest in the nation. After playing in many different locations during our 87-year history, our theater now sits on the corner of Lake and University. Designed in 1957 by architect Les Kenyon, the building seats 325 patrons, is handicapped accessible, and is home to nearly 60 Peoria Players shows per year, along with housing many other groups and events. However, after nearly 50 years, our wonderful facility has been slowly showing its age. As a result, it’s recently undergone some major renovations.

To start, we refurbished our marquee. An integral source of advertisement, our marquee is one of the last “chasing lights” marquees in the city. In much need of attention, the marquee was repaired and repainted in fall 2000. Our next focus was on the restrooms off the main lobby. In spring 2001, we installed new flooring, new sinks and vanities, and new stalls. Soon after that, the summer of 2001 saw many updates. We repainted our dressing and makeup areas; repainted our auditorium ceiling and walls with the help of Les and Theo Jean Kenyon; and with the help of the Peoria Park District, we were able to replace our roof.

Because of our vast and excellent costume collection—one of the best in central Illinois—we found it necessary to provide more storage space. In fall 2002, we began laying groundwork to expand our costume storage area. Through the generous efforts and donations of Bill Schwab, Bonnie Larson, and Karen Stringer’s families and matching grants from Caterpillar, last year we were able to convert most of our boiler room to a dry and secure place, which now provides additional costume storage.

By January 2004, we’d decided all of the auditorium seats needed to be replaced, and we kicked off our “Take a Seat” campaign. Twenty months later, after producing various fundraisers and receiving numerous patron donations, we’d raised enough money to purchase our new theater seats. They were installed the week of August 22, complete with brass donor plaques attached to the backs. Most recently, our box office and lobbies were remodeled with new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint.

And we won’t stop there. Future plans are to improve our current lighting and sound systems. A three-year plan, which includes special fundraisers to help us reach that goal, is in place. The new lighting system entails rewiring, new computers, and intelligent lighting. The sound system upgrade features a state-of-the-art sound board and cluster speakers above the proscenium arch. Thus far, thanks to a grant from Caterpillar, we’ve been able to purchase new body mics and a sound mixer.

In addition, we hope one day to raise enough funds to install a mechanical fly system. Such a system would allow for more effective scenic design and efficient set changes. Based on the success of reaching our past goals, we’re confident we’ll achieve anything we set out to do. We’ve made a commitment to ensure Peoria Players remains the hallmark of quality theater in a comfortable and updated environment for the next 87 years and more. AA!