The former Old Creamery Theatre in Amana is being reborn under a new moniker – the Amana Performing Arts Center – and will present its first show in May.
“We are hopeful that the theater can remain a positive asset for the Amana Society and the community,” Amana Society president and CEO Greg Luerkens said in an April 14 article in the Amana Society Bulletin. “It’s important to the Amana Society and to the community that the facility operates at a profit or at minimum, is self-sustaining, assuring it operates for years to come.”
Old Creamery, then Iowa’s oldest professional non-profit theater company, permanently closed in early February just short of its 50th anniversary.
“Like many other organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to temporarily close our doors in March of 2020,” read the notification on Old Creamery’s website from the group’s board of directors. “After an attempt at a partial re-opening this past fall/winter 2021 with roadshows, we had the hopes of putting on a regular season of shows in 2022. While the roadshows were considered a success, it was just too little, too late. The financial pressures endured during this extended closure have proven to be a catastrophe from which we could not recover. Coupled with the existing non-profit budget and all the usual expenses which were still incurred while closed, there was simply no way to continue to stay open.”
Staff members at the Amana Society, including Bruce Trumpold, Jeff Popenhagen, Dennis Hahn and Jamie Scott, began working to return the theater building to operation shortly after Old Creamery ceased operations.
“Despite being asked to leave things as they found them, the building and equipment were in disrepair and some vital equipment from the sound and lighting systems was unworkable or missing,” the Amana Society Bulletin reported. “But with a lot of hard work, brainstorming and calling in help when needed, the theater will be ready for bookings this year.”
The Performing Arts Center’s first show, “Weekend Comedy,” will be presented May 20-21. The show is described as a “hilarious comedy about two couples, one in their 20s and the other in their 50s, who book the same cabin for the same three-day weekend.” It’s written by Jeanne and Sam Bobrick and presented by TKM Productions, headed by Tom Milligan and Deborah Kennedy.
Jamie Scott, director of the Amana RV Park and Event Center, is handling all bookings for the Amana Performing Arts Center. She said the venue has already booked 10 different events, including theatrical performances, a kids theater camp and a series of weekend evening swap meets with live bluegrass music and a pop-up food vendor to be held in the back courtyard, similar to events in South Amana in 2018-2019.
The Amana Society is promoting the new venue’s availability, including working with The Hotel Millwright and the Amana Colonies RV Park to market the facility as a potential meeting site for corporate, business or club gatherings that require a large auditorium, the Amana Society Bulletin reported.
“The hope is that community groups can utilize the space in a wide array of ways,” Mr. Luerkens said. “In the immediate future, the Amana Society is working with TKM Productions (to ramp) up production of theater presentations. The hope is that this group can bring much of what the Old Creamery Theater has brought to the community in the past, maintaining Amana as a place that promotes the arts.”
While featuring theater productions is important because offering good entertainment is a natural draw, Mr. Luerkens said the Amana Society believes widening what can and will happen at the venue will help sustain its future operations.
The Amana Colonies is also studying the possibility of the area around the theater as an agritourism destination that could include attractions such as a corn maze, petting zoo, produce gardens and other family-friendly activities, The Gazette reports.
The 300-seat Performing Arts Center is located at 39 38th Ave. in Amana. For more information, check out the group’s temporary website at amanarvpark.com/amana-performing-arts-center/, call (319) 622-7616 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Old Creamery was founded in 1971 in a former co-op dairy building in Garrison and moved to the Amana Colonies in 1988. At its peak, Old Creamery presented up to six mainstage shows each year, adding children’s productions to the mix in 2007.
The theatre had terminated all its staff, except for general manager Pat Wagner, in July 2020 in an effort to remain financially viable, but even receiving a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant from the federal government wasn’t enough to fully address Old Creamery’s financial woes.