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Peppermint Creek opens new performance space with 'The Prom'

On Thursday night, a new performance venue opens in Lansing. The Peppermint Creek Theatre Company is staging a Broadway musical at Stage One.

In May, Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church announced it was establishing a new performance space at one of its sites on Lake Lansing Road. With some renovations now complete, Stage One is ready for action.

The maiden voyage will be Peppermint Creek Theatre Company’s production of The Prom. The Tony Award-nominated 2018 musical is based on a true story of a high school girl who met resistance for wanting to take her girlfriend to prom.

Lizabeth Desmet plays lead character, Emma Dolan.

“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been coming to terms with different parts of my identity,” Desmet said. “This show has been a really good way for me to experience some queer joy and spend some time with other people like me.”

Peppermint Creek founder Chad Swan-Badgero said he tends to choose dramas touching on current social issues, but found The Prom was a good fit for the theater company.

“I was taken both by not only the comedy, but how respectfully and deftly the show navigates actually quite a serious topic,” said Sawn-Badgero. "By the end, I was just completely smitten and really just crying with joy. It’s a really, really fun, joyful show.”

Peppermint Creek has had a nomadic existence. Now in its 20th season, the theater company has staged shows in more than two dozen locations, ranging from barns to bookstores to churches.

Swan-Badgero said Sycamore Creek Church shares Peppermint Creek’s social justice mission.

“We talked a lot about that,” he said. “Just the pros and cons of that for them as a church and what that might look like, and for us as a theatre company and the rest of the community.”

The church and the theatre company are sharing renovation expenses. Swan-Badgero is happy that Peppermint Creek raised $16,000 for risers to improve seating views, even if it isn’t the sexiest thing to fundraise for.

“They’re just like infrastructure that you don’t even want the audience to think about, in the same way that you don’t want them to think about lighting instruments,” Swan-Badgero said. "But it’s immediately going to impact the patron experience and making it more comfortable, just to see what’s happening onstage.”

Stage One is committed to one season at the church, but Swan-Badgero is calling it Peppermint Creek’s long-term home, feeling a newfound sense of stability for the company.

"It’s an arrival of sorts, but it’s also sort of like the ability to look ahead to what we might continue to become," Swan-Badgero explained. "I don’t take for granted that there are theatre companies that have come and gone in our 20 years as a nonprofit."

"That we’re still here is really meaningful to me, and that Lansing audiences still sort of see value in the type of work we’re doing," he added.

Stage One will also host future productions of the Ixion Theatre Company.

The Prom runs through Nov. 12th.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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