Players Guild Theater leaves cultural center for Kent State Stark

ArtsinStark announced Thursday morning that the Players Guild Theater will leave the Downtown Canton Arts Cultural Center and move to Kent State University in Stark.

After months of review by the Players Guild board, the organization has decided to vacate the 416-seat main stage and 139-seat black box space, noting ArtsinStark June 23. ArtsinStark and Players Guild officials met on June 29 to discuss the details of the split.

In an ArtsinStark press release, Players Guild Theater Board Chairman Dan Sibila said four reasons for the decision.

“Moving to Kent State Stark provides a business model that, first, builds a partnership program with a well-funded higher education system; second, create a collaborative program with KSU students and faculty that furthers our collective goal of enriching the arts in Stark County; third, provides student placements and internship opportunities with a PGT credential produced in full collaboration with Kent State students and faculty; and fourth, creates an agricultural system to nurture future growers and management, thereby ensuring the longevity of the organization,” Sibila said.

David White Hill

ArtsinStark President and CEO David Whitehill had nothing but good wishes for the Players Guild.

“I will say that ArtsinStark affirms their support for this transition,” Whitehill said. “We wish the Players Guild the best in its new home.”

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“For 51 years, the Players Guild Theater has been an integral part of the Cultural Center for the Arts. Many members of our community enjoyed the fantastic shows and programs The Players Guild provided on the Main Stage and at the WG Fry Theatre,” said Whitehill.

Performing arts companies setting up shop on college campuses are not new. It’s become a trend in northeast Ohio. The University of Akron is home to the Rubber City Theater and Light Opera is housed at the College of Wooster.

Kent State University at Stark Dean and Administrative Director Dr Denise Seachrist welcome the move.

“KSU Stark students and faculty are thrilled to welcome Players Guild Theater to perform on the Mary J. Timken Stage. Players Guild’s new business model will complement our fine arts program for current and future students,” Seachrist said in a press release.

The Players Guild intends to vacate the cultural center space on August 31.

When asked if the Players Guild would no longer be attached to ArtsinStark, Whitehill quickly replied that ArtsinStark still supports it.

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“We say we are a county-wide organization. We support through advocacy efforts, through fundraising and grant-making efforts as well as through our facilities, and certainly, we intend – as with all of our arts organizations – to continue to support them in the way that they need to be supported,” Whitehill said.

What does this move mean for the Arts Center in the future?

“We are really in the early stages now that the Players Guild has informed us of their intention to vacate the facility and move their operations to Kent State Stark. We will begin our process of exploring the possibilities for space,” Whitehill said. “It’s an incredible facility. It can be used in many different ways, and certainly we have a number of community partners who have expressed interest over the years in using this space, so that’s, I guess, the exciting work ahead of us.

Earlier this year, ArtsinStark engaged the services of Webb Management Services, a national company represented in Ohio that provides consulting services to the arts and cultural industries, to undergo a three-phase cultural assets study that includes a assessment of the Cultural Center campus.

The assessment was paused during the Players Guild due diligence period so that a Phase I report could include the future use of the 37,000 square foot theater space which, in addition to performance spaces , includes offices, rehearsal space, green room, lobby and locker rooms.

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