Shonn Wiley -- Croswell Opera House alumnus, Broadway performer, and member of the Croswell's capital campaign cabinet -- shows one of the drawings for the Croswell's planned $6.2 million renovation campaign.
Shonn Wiley — Croswell Opera House alumnus, Broadway performer, and member of the Croswell’s capital campaign cabinet — shows one of the drawings for the Croswell’s planned $6.2 million renovation campaign.

Calling it a transformative project that will build a strong future for performing arts in the region, the Croswell Opera House in Adrian announced a $6.2 million capital campaign on Friday night.

Emory Schmidt, president of the Croswell’s board of trustees, unveiled the plans in front of about 250 supporters who had gathered for the theater’s annual fundraising gala. The Croswell has raised about $2.2 million, putting the project at just over one-third of its goal, and Friday night marked the kickoff of the public phase of the campaign.

“These are the plans that will put the Croswell on a strong footing for the next 150 years,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the plans focus on three main goals: enhancing the patron experience, upgrading the Croswell’s infrastructure to modern standards, and increasing the Croswell’s sustainability by expanding the kinds of programming it can offer.

Major changes that audience members will notice include:

  • New men’s, women’s and family restrooms on both the main floor and the mezzanine level, roughly doubling the amount of restroom space available to patrons and cutting down on long lines.
  • Improved accessibility for patrons with disabilities, which will be achieved by widening doors and installing an elevator from the main floor to the mezzanine level for easier balcony access.
  • Improved lighting positions and acoustics in the auditorium.
  • An expanded and renovated Heritage Room, which will be extended out to the windows overlooking Maumee Street and will become a small performance venue and lounge area.
  • A new “black box” performance space, which will double as a rehearsal room and provide space for smaller shows that don’t necessarily make sense to stage in a large auditorium.

The Croswell is working with the Michigan State Historical Preservation Office to keep all of the plans in line with the historic character of the 149-year-old building.

The plans have been drawn up with the assistance of Quinn Evans Architects, an Ann Arbor-based firm with extensive experience in historic theater renovations. The general contractor is Krieghoff-Lenawee Co. of Adrian.

Jere Righter, artistic director of the Croswell, said everything that happens at the theater — including the campaign announced Friday night — is “a labor of love.” From the very beginning, she said, the community and the Croswell have always been there for each other.

“I think about the late ’60s, when this community banded together to save the Croswell from destruction,” Righter said. “So many people pitched in. And they didn’t just donate money. They scrubbed the floors, they painted the theater, they hauled load after load of trash to the dump. It was a lot of work. And they did it because of their love for the Croswell and their pride in a job well done.

“That’s what this capital campaign is all about,” she said. “It’s about love for the Croswell, it’s about love for our community, and it’s about building something that we can continue to be proud of for many, many years to come.”

For more information about the Croswell’s capital campaign and the planned renovations, call 517-263-6868 or visit

Croswell Opera House unveils $6.2 million renovation campaign