The idea of establishing a place for live theater in Clarkston was born in March 1961. A small group of community members gathered together and organized the Clarkston Village Players. The first play, Two Blind Mice was performed just two months later at Clarkston High School.
At first, performances were held at the high school. Most rehearsals were held at the Township Community Center or at members’ homes. However, all that changed in 1962 with the acquisition of the Depot.
One cannot help but step back in time upon entering the old Clarkston Train Station. Although CVP (Clarkston Village Players) has added to the Depot Theater, the sense of history is still strong in the look and feel of the building.
An Historic Building
The original train station was built around the turn of the century. It helped make Clarkston a resort community during the first quarter of the twentieth century. It provided a stopping point for summer vacationers, who would then travel by horse-drawn carriages, and later motorized open-air mini-buses, to local hotels. The original station was destroyed by fire in May 1923.
The present station served train passengers until 1959. CVP purchased the Depot from Grand Trunk Railroad for $150. The Depot was first used for rehearsals and storage. The first show presented there was Dirty Work at the Crossroads in 1964. Because the melodrama was so well received by audiences, this type of play became a yearly occasion for about ten years. Combining the charm of the old train station, the opera house curtain (donated to CVP from the old Clarkston Opera House in the Maccabees Building), and the unadulterated fun of pure American theater, the melodrama provided a good evening’s entertainment. Since then, our theater has showcased a good blend of comedy, drama, farce, and an occasional musical.
In the 50 years since that first show, CVP has undertaken an extensive building renovations, while still providing the area with five to seven shows each year. The first major change came in 1978 when regular theater seats replaced wooden folding chairs. The renovation of the lobby area began in 1984 and was completed in 1986. Along with the lobby addition, the theater was upgraded with a heating and cooling system, carpeting, a lighting and sound room complete with new equipment, and a new stage curtain. CVP’s most recent major undertaking was the creation of a tiered seating system, improving the sightlines for the audience so that all patrons can equally enjoy the shows.
Membership over the years has fluctuated from the original 19 or 20 members to upwards to 80. Members come from all walks of life and their talents range from carpentry to electronics to plumbing to acting to directing and a myriad of other skills. The CVP Board of Directors meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 P.M. at the Depot Theater. New members are always welcome.
The community has been more than generous to CVP over the years. The group reciprocates in many ways. Each year, CVP offers five benefit performances to community groups who are looking for opportunities to raise money. CVP is an active member of the Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce and the Clarkston Cultural Arts Council.
Perhaps its most successful community enrichment program has been its Youth Theater program. Established in the mid 1970’s, the CVP Youth Theatre allows local youth to experience all areas of theater production, as they mount a new show each summer.
Now in its 57th year, CVP is firmly ensconced in the community and draws audiences from the entire tri-county area. In keeping with the vision and goal of the founders, CVP is dedicated to bringing exceptional live theater to the community.