Stagecrafters is a powerhouse of arts and culture whose creative flare has been energizing Downtown Royal Oak for decades. Each season, they produce ten shows with the help of an army of actors, volunteers, and permanent staff that attracts theatre-lovers of all ages. Stagecrafters’ variety of shows has something for everyone: five Broadway-style shows on the Main Stage, three contemporary plays on our 2nd Stage, and two youth theatre productions, including everything from musicals, dramas and comedies.
“More than 300 volunteer members make the magic of live theatre happen. From directors, producers, actors, ushers, box office workers, and set designers to costumers and carpenters, each person helps bring the show to life,” says Marketing Manager, and the theatre’s number-one cheerleader, Erin McKay. “They do it because they love Stagecrafters and live theatre.”
As a nonprofit community theatre, Stagecrafters has the reputation of providing the most outstanding community-crafted productions in southeast Michigan.
“The audience comes from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties,” says McKay. She also shared some good news with me. According to McKay, Stagecrafters is great for business in Downtown Royal Oak, generating tons of foot traffic for local shops and restaurants.
“Audience surveys suggest that three-quarters of our patrons visit local shops and restaurants before or after shows, generating over $474,600.00 for local Royal Oak businesses... Our patrons have many options for a fun-filled evening. They can shop, dine and walk around before or after they catch a show,” McKay adds.
Stagecrafters has been named Best Community Theatre by Hour Detroit, Detroit Metro Times and Daily Tribune, and in 2017 received an amazing 10 out of 26 Broadway World Detroit Awards including Best Musical, Best Set Design, Best Musical Direction and Best Sound Design. Adding to Stagecrafters prestige are a few famous alumni who were members of the youth theatre and graced the Baldwin Theatre’s stage: Kristen Bell, Jeffrey Seller (producer of Hamilton), and Broadway Tony award-winning actress Sutton Foster.
Stagecrafters has been operating for 63 years, but they came to Royal Oak 33 years ago. The founding members once put on a show for Clawson Days. The actors had so much fun they decided to form a troupe and perform on a regular basis.
“Since that time, we’ve built a nurturing arts community where anyone with a passion for the performing arts can thrive, regardless of age or background,” says McKay. McKay took me on a tour of the building, which she says, was purchased from the Royal Oak DDA in 1985, when Stagecrafters originally came to Royal Oak.
“It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We were looking for a new venue, and one of our members had the idea to do rooftop performances atop a parking garage in Royal Oak. Instead, the city encouraged us to consider reactivating the old Washington Theatre, which was slated for demolition. It was fire and water damaged, but the price was right and in we took the challenge of restoring and renovating the 1922 gem, which we rechristened The Baldwin Theatre, its original name.”
. “Stagecrafter's Creative Team comprises a marketing manager and a design manager, which allows Stagecrafters to chart new ground in social media, publicity and graphic design,” says McKay. Stagecrafter’s employs a total of eight staff members, who manage the day-to-day operations of the theatre. Having a dedicated staff pays off allows Stagecrafters to go above and beyond traditional volunteer-based theatre groups.
“We have been the first among our peer community theatres in southeast Michigan to create teaser videos, interviews with audience members following shows, animated graphics and other multimedia products for promoting our programming across social media channels.”
The staff also helps maintain a nearly century-old building.
“The theatre was built in 1922 so we’ve had to keep the mechanical infrastructure and backstage equipment updated and up to code. That has required careful financial planning, balancing the costs of our wonderful productions with the needs of an aging and historic building.” These expenses can sometimes be challenging for a nonprofit squarely focused on the arts. “Tickets do not cover all of the expenses of operating in the Baldwin Theatre, Stagecrafters relies on donations and grants to fill in gaps,” McKay explained. “Stagecrafters is constantly working to grow community awareness in order to increase audience as well as charitable donations.”
Stagecrafters’ box office hours are: 10am-2pm, Monday through Friday. For those interested in supporting the arts in Downtown Royal Oak, tickets can be purchased from and donations made to Stagecrafters at www.stagecrafters.org.