LAKESHORE REGIONAL NEWS: Door County, Kewaunee County, Manitowoc County, and Sheboygan County

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Sturgeon Bay acting couple building own community theater

Critic At Large

DC Arts Center

Stuart Champeau and Lola DeVillers pose prior to an outdoor Rogue Theater play in Sturgeon Bay. (Warren Gerds)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – In a rarity, a Sturgeon Bay couple who formed a community theater troupe is in the process building a venue.

Often, community theaters rent space or acquire former churches.

In this case, the building will be built from scratch as a theater.

Stuart Champeau and Lola DeVillers of Rogue Theater are calling the space DC Arts Center.

Rogue Theater has presented plays in many locations in the Sturgeon Bay area.

Some places the troupe considered home for a long term – the former Ahnapee & Western Railway station and the Sturgeon Bay Jaycee Hall. Circumstances forced Rogue Theater to move.

“When Stuart and I began Rogue Theater in 2013, it was because we felt community theater no longer had a place to go in Door County,” Lola DeVillers said in an email. “TAP (Third Avenue Playhouse) had recently changed their status to professional, and other community theaters in the area had stopped functioning. With our love of theater and knowledge of so many talented actors living in Door County, we knew we needed to provide an avenue for community theater to exist.

“Over the years, we have continued to have the vision of opening a venue that would support the community along with the many artists who live in Door County. The Depot Performing Arts Center was a small start to that vision. Unfortunately, as we moved from venue to venue, our true vision was not being realized. After a year of being ‘homeless’ per say, we knew we needed to do something else. We needed to create that arts center ourselves.

“Knowing Rogue Theater’s financial situation, we knew the building of a venue was going to need help. Asking the community to fund the building of a theater in Sturgeon Bay didn’t seem logistical. Asking the community to support Rogue Theater’s entity in a venue seemed far more reachable. 

“With that, Stuart and I are creating a facility named DC Arts Center. This will be the building in which Rogue Theater creates their theater space but also allows for other performing and visual arts to be a part of.   

Front view of planned DC Arts Center.
Side view of planned DC Arts Center.

“The building construction will begin this fall at 917 N. 14th Ave. The site is currently a vacant commercial lot that Stuart and I purchased three years ago. In prior years, it was a car wash. 

“The location has great visibility, with a hotel next door and the newly remodeled Door County Senior Resource Center across the road. 

“The stage area will be 16 by 40 feet with a mezzanine across the back, accessible to the stage area. Seating for 80 will include chairs on the floor level and a raised section. 

“Backstage will include male and female dressing rooms, along with a restroom and green room area. The front lobby will have ticketing, concessions and public restrooms.

Interior of planned DC Arts Center.

“Completion is expected for spring 2021, with our first show opening in May. At this time, we do not anticipate having dinner theater at this venue. Our history has been founded by our support of local restaurants and having dinner theater at those venues. We would like to continue that collaboration with the community.  

“The facility is meant for the community. Rogue Theater will be the primary renter, but other acting troupes as well as other forms of art are welcome to rent the space as well. We hope to bring in visual and all types of performing art to this venue.  

“As for the car wash: Stuart and I bought the car wash in 2017. We definitely did not want a car wash, but saw potential in the commercial property. We posted the car wash building on Craig’s List as an item to give away. A gentleman from another part of the state was interested in dismantling the building for re-installment at a different location. All went well, and the building was gone. Since then, the lot has been left vacant.  

Site of planned DC Arts Center on N. 14th Avenue in Sturgeon Bay. (Warren Gerds)

“Upon completion, we are most looking forward to our ‘own stage.’  A place we can call home.

“Rogue Theater is a stand-alone facility as a theater that will function independently, yet is supported by donations from patrons throughout the year.”

Aside from the building project, the couple has additional plans.

“Rogue Theater will have performances the first two weekends in October,” Lola DeVillers said. “We hope to begin our spring murder mystery dinner theater run in April of 2021.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rogue Theater in summer presented a unique series of outdoor performances as “Drive-In Theater.” Comedy and drama plays were performed in the back parking lot of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Sturgeon Bay. While music/variety parking-lot shows were held in such cities as Chilton and Green Bay, the theatrical presentations by local talent were the only one of their kind in the region.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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