Michigan Regional Theater to Renovate Historic School Building

The Encore Theatre Company, a nonprofit theater group in Dexter, Mich., is raising money to renovate its new performance space—a historic school building downtown.

The theater group purchased the old school house, known as the Copeland building, from Dexter Community Schools last year for a price of $1 million. Now, it is seeking to fundraise about that same amount to convert the space into a modern performance venue.

“Our new building is evolving into a state-of-the-art theater center, where the finest talent of southeast Michigan, Broadway, and other top industry professionals will come together to produce and develop extraordinary shows,” said Daniel Cooney, the group’s co-founder and artistic director. “This is also an opportunity to breathe new life into a historic building, and to provide musical theater training to the next generation of artists in our region.”

The Copeland building was built in 1857 as the Dexter Union Schoolhouse. It was rebuilt in 1887 and saw major renovations in 1936. Already featuring a rather sizable auditorium, the final renovations will convert the 20,000-square-foot building to include public meeting spaces, classrooms for arts education programs, a lobby, a café, and a bar.

Encore has already received $500,000 from the Bernard L. Maas Foundation, as well as significant contributions from its patrons. It’s currently in the process of raising an additional $1.3 million, which it hopes to have by the end of 2021, in a capital campaign called “OUR NEXT STAGE.” It’s soliciting from local individuals, organizations, and businesses for tax-deductible donations. The group also notes that “naming rights for the building, lobby, entrance, café and bar, as well as other areas within the facility” are still up for grabs.

“This renovation will create an expanded, public arts destination in downtown Dexter, attracting tens of thousands to local businesses and the surrounding community annually through professional musical theater productions and an active arts education program for youth of all ages,” said the Encore Theatre Company in a statement.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].