HISTORY OF THE THEATRE
Formerly known as the Van Buren Street Theatre, established in 2005. The Whistling Idiots Comedy Dinner Theatre performs comedy dinner theatre and other theatrical events in the former Church of Christ Scientist building (built in 1911) at the corner of North Van Buren and Sixth Streets, Bay City, Michigan.
The former church building is a neoclassical Greek revival structure featuring Palladian architecture, historically significant stained glass windows, a domed ceiling , plaster greek columns, and early 20th century woodwork.
My desire to create a dinner theatre in Bay City began in 1992. We went before the Bay City Players board to present our ideas of a dinner theatre, funded by them. They shot us down, telling us our idea had been tried and it didn't work.
Bay City Players was like our apprenticeship to theatre. We became very good actors during the 90's but we also learned how to build sets, direct, stage manage, run lights and sound. So those years were our formative years in the theatre. During those years we rocked the idea of dinner theatre around but never pulled the trigger.
In 2001 we performed 'Escanaba in the moonlight' at the Bay City Players. It was a grand success. We started to formulate a plan to do 'Escanaba in the moonlight' at Hereford & Hops Brewery and Restaurant. They were more than happy to partner with us in this venue.
We built a stage in their banquet facility, set up lights and sound and sold out 12 performances. We continued doing shows 'Silvia', 'Boys next door', and 'Foreigner' selling out our performances and then all of a sudden, Hereford & Hops closed, we were forced to store everything from our productions in a storage unit.
We started looking around town for a venue that would work for our situation. Finally stumbling upon the Christ Scientist Church on Van Buren St. It took us one year from idea to show time. We had to buy the building, restore it, add bathroom capacity, paint the inside, level the floor (since it had seats that ran downhill to the stage), acquire a liquor license, and the heating system needed a new boiler.
The building had set unused since the 50's so we had our work cut out for us. The stained glass and woodwork were beautiful. I fell in love with the building and one of my jobs was the care of the building. We were introduced to the caterer 'Morning at Maggies' and were happy with their excellent reputation and delicious food.
We opened with Neil Simon's 'Sunshine Boys' and sold out opening weekend and it was down hill form there. So for the next two years it was business as usual. Then in 2008 I had to take a job in California. I would work for six weeks and fly home to build the sets and get ready for the show, then fly back. It was an extremely difficult schedule. So in 2009 I parted company with the theatre. It was at this time that the theatre changed its concept to audience participation, it worked for a couple of shows, but then the interest waned and people stopped coming.
In June of 2011 I had the opportunity to take the theatre over due to the untimely death of my former partner. I felt like I was starting over since the place was a wreck. After hours of fixing, cleaning and bringing the building back to normal, we are ready to perform with our opening show 'Love, Sex and the I.R.S.'
We once again have 'Morning at Maggies' Catering for us, and we are back to doing what we do best. Offering an intimate setting, wonderful food, and perhaps the best comedy theatre in the state. We also have a cash bar and cookies at intermission.