In the fall of 1972 a dozen people met in the living room of Dick and Mary Lou Fendrick. The group comprised teachers, business people, state workers and others. The task was to form an adult community theater group. The group was to provide an opportunity for Stoughton people to produce plays. With the help of some professional theater specialists from the University, The Stoughton Village Players was formed.
The group did a small production, "Spoon River Anthology", in the basement of the old Junior High School in 1973. Then in January of 1974 the group staged their first major production in the Auditorium of Stoughton High School, "Thurber Carnival". The show was a big hit. This production was followed by three more shows at the High School including the first SVP Syttende Mai show.
In 1974 the group's president, Tony Hill, made arrangements with then Stoughton Mayor, Liniel Cooper, to convert the unused upper floor of the Senior Citizens Center (which was housed in the old Our Saviors Lutheran Church) into a performing theater. The group then went to work, building a stage, installing theater lighting and generally creating what turned out to be an intimate and wonderful space for theater. In the fall of that year SVP produced "Laura" on that stage.
For the next 20 years the group, as a guest of the City, produced almost all of their shows in this space, at the corner of Division and North Streets, which came to be known as the North Church Playhouse. But in the early 1990s the City moved the Senior Center to its current home at the corner of Main and Page. Having no need for the old building, they offered it to SVP with the stipulation that they renovate it and bring it up to code. After an engineering study that showed the cost of this to be around $200,000, well beyond the group's means, the Players were forced to decline the City's generous offer.
For the next four years the group staged most of it productions at the Stoughton Opera House. But when the Opera House received a grant from the Jeffreys Foundation allowing a complete renovation of the historic space, the building had to be closed during the restoration.
Without a permanent place to perform, the group was homeless. They staged one show in the High School cafitorium, but that was not a long-term solution.
Then in 1999 the group was offered the use of the old Badger movie theater on Main Street at no charge. At first this was looked on as a temporary move but after five very successful years staging over a dozen fantastic shows in the space, the group decided to make this arrangement permanent. Not only did the group plan to take ownership of the building, but they also decided to restore the facade of the aging structure to its original look and condition.
The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1921 at the height of the silent movie era. It served Stoughton for three quarters of a century as a movie house and the players are looking forward to extending its life into the next century as a performance space for live drama, comedy and music.
We have completed the second phase of our renovation in 2010. For more information see Theater Renovation.