Treehouse Theater (THT) offers year-round theater education classes, specialty workshops, and performance opportunities EXCLUSIVELY for youth between the ages of 4-18. THT seeks to inspire youth to explore their individuality, creativity, and self-confidence while developing responsibility and a strong work ethic.
Formed in 2012, THT is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, operating by the grace of multi-talented Board members, limited Staff, and countless volunteers.
To enrich the lives of children and their families by providing quality theater education and performance opportunities
YEAR-ROUND educational arts PROGRAMMING
Acting Academy classes - SUMMER, FALL, WINTER
Music Theater Dance & Workout classes - SUMMER
Group rehearsals and trip to national youth Junior Theater Festival - WINTER
Workshops with Special Guests
Grant-writing, Facebook fundraisers, and home mailings
MURDER MYSTERY DINNER adult fundraisers - FALL, WINTER
NIGHT IN THE TREEHOUSE annual signature fundraiser - SPRING
Family dinner nights at area restaurants
NEW REHEARSAL STUDIO RENOVATION - 2019 and 2020
We purchased the building located at 910 Washington St on July 8, 2019. We immediately began renovation efforts and would greatly appreciate YOUR help. If interested in volunteering (adult and youth welcome), please contact Karen Rohrer to join the private Facebook group for regular updates.
All About Us
2019-2020 BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President - Martin Schaller
Vice President - Jamie Vergenz
Secretary - Warren Schmidt
Treasurer - John Iannitello
Jeff Brandenburg, Julie Grossman, Richard Ladwig, Eric Nycz, Doug Odell, Brittany Schuh-VanderWeele, Susan Shaw
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - email
Karen Rohrer - (920) 242-6842
Chair: Margaret Iannitello
Board Member: Julie Grossman
Youth: Mazie Frahm, Maya Gadzinski, Alethea Quick
Adults: Danielle Frahm, Lisa Heili, Erin Nycz, Deanne Stokes
EXECUTIVE / FINANCE
Chair: Martin Schaller
Board Members: Warren Schmidt, John Iannitello, Jamie Vergenz
Chair: Jeff Brandenburg
Board Members: John Iannitello, Richard Ladwig, Jamie Vergenz
Chair: Madde Gilmore
Board Members: Eric Nycz, Doug Odell, Susan Shaw
Youth: Noah Van Ells
Adults: Danielle Frahm, Elizabeth Geissler, Ginger Van Ells
Chair: Luan Leonardelli
Board Member: Warren Schmidt
Youth: Kiersten Moser, Maya Pagel, Ethan Stokes
Adults: Betsie Auchter, Jean Fuhs, Erin LaFond, Katie Lawrenz, Shannon Meulbroek, Deanne Stokes
Strengthened by community partnership, Treehouse Theater (THT) has been proactively supporting youth education and development through quality performing arts programming since 2012. THT offers year-round theater education classes, specialty workshops, and performance opportunities exclusively for youth between the ages of 4-18. This sole focus on youth development makes THT a unique non-profit community arts organization within Northeast Wisconsin. Once limited to Manitowoc and Two Rivers, families now come from Valders, Sheboygan, Howards Grove, Brillion, Denmark, Green Bay, and beyond to participate in programming and join in the audiences.
In just eight years, THT has produced 23 high-quality local musical productions, won awards at seven of the past eight Junior Theater Festival national competitions, designed and built their first rehearsal studio on Franklin St, launched Acting Academy classes, hosted several specialty arts workshops, and worked numerous fundraising events to sustain their mission. THT seeks to inspire youth to explore creativity and develop a strong work ethic while becoming more responsible and confident. THT instruction with the guiding principles of respect, trust, leading by example, healthy communication, and teamwork produces students that can then strengthen the casts of arts organizations and their own public or private school theater programs. THT is blessed with continual support from many local arts partners. Regular collaboration with experienced members of The Masquers has resulted in THT musical performances that far surpass audience expectations.
Year-round operations are guided by the Board of Directors, with special note of two recent additions: Officer Richard Ladwig and business leader, Doug Odell. Karen Rohrer, integral founder of the organization, serves as Executive Director and is the one full-time staff member. Mrs. Rohrer is charged with ensuring quality programming, financial oversight, community relations/impact, fund development, marketing, costume rentals, cast/crew communications, and volunteer coordination. THT income sources include profits from musical productions and educational classes, fundraising events, grants, individual and corporate donations, costume set rentals, and playbill advertisers.
Believing that youth will thrive from the opportunity to work with a variety of arts enthusiasts, THT secures a fresh directing team for each musical. Interested students can choose to audition for the opportunity to appear onstage as cast members, apply as Jr. production team members, or volunteer to assist as members of the stage or technical crews. Each cast is a blend of new and returning student actors, all of whom are encouraged to explore their artistic individuality, be creative and responsible, improve their listening skills, and gain self-confidence while making new friends. The cast and crew work together to develop a high-quality music theater production for sharing with the local community and/or showcasing at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta each January.
To further the mission of building confident leaders, Mrs. Rohrer partnered with volunteer Education Director, Deanne Stokes, to create, document, and now supervise the THT student leadership development program. When accepted as Jr. production team members, students between ages 14-18 can observe the organizational process and grow to appreciate the many challenges encountered during each production. Under the guidance of an adult mentor, some of these students have later stepped forward to lead one aspect of a THT summer musical. The 2019 production of “Pirates Past Noon KIDS” was proudly led by seven students in the positions of Director, Music Director, Choreographer, two Stage Managers, Set Designer/Decorator, and Hair Designer.
Each educational class and musical production serve to strengthen the extended community by attracting students from multiple public and private schools as well as from home school settings. Each musical showcases 60+ student actors with fabulous set, lighting, sound, make- up, hair, and costume designs. The December 2019 production of "Disney’s FROZEN Jr" featured 62 student actors who attend 27 different schools or are home schooled. Performances are held on the UWGB-Manitowoc Campus Theatre stage and audiences routinely fill nearly every available seat. THT takes great pride in exceeding the commonly low expectations for youth theater and audiences are repeatedly impressed by the high-quality sets, costumes, lighting, sound, and talent level of the student performers.
In 2014, a small group of THT volunteers coordinated the renovation of an empty 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse located at 818 Franklin St. and secured a five-year lease that expired on August 31, 2019. A new landlord (as of 2017) proposed to nearly triple THT’s monthly rent in a three-year lease extension. To better manage long-term sustainability, the Board of Directors launched an extensive search for a new permanent studio to offer year-round youth arts programming.
After careful consideration, THT identified a highly visible, structurally-solid building and adjacent parking lot in downtown Manitowoc, in dire need of revitalization. The building, located at 910 Washington St, is 11,000 sq. ft. on two floors, plus a full, dry basement. The West Foundation awarded THT with a grant to fully fund the building's purchase on July 8, 2019, and to help launch renovations. The expansive THT volunteer base - including staff, board members, community arts enthusiasts, youth and families – has completed demolition and disposal, full framing of both floors, painting, staining, finishing, and basic construction efforts. Board member Jeff Brandenburg is voluntarily partnering with the Executive Director to serve as the project’s general contractor. The Executive Director designed a floor plan that focused on expanding future income streams, including a rentable 40’ x 50’ Community Room and 22’ x 25’ Kitchen, one-on-one vocal and instrumental instruction rooms, and 1,200 sq ft Costume Room that will provide improved efficiency in storing all of our fabulous costume sets that are available for rent via the website www.TreehouseTheaterCostumes.com. This market potential is exploding as countless schools and community theater programs across the country face decreased funding and lack of staff needed for creating quality costumes for their youth musicals.
As detailed within the capital campaign brochure, THT is thrilled to have purchased our new permanent rehearsal home. The full project totals $675,000, including the building’s purchase price and $125,000 in estimated value of volunteer labor to complete demolition, framing walls, hanging drywall, painting, staining, flooring installations, finishing, and decorating. As of July, 31, 2020, 138 volunteers of all ages have already completed approximately 3,603 hours on this project. Subcontractors are nearly finished with first floor HVAC, electrical, and plumbing, working alongside skilled THT volunteers. This collaborative revitalization project will result in an exciting new permanent youth arts complex for many years of enjoyment by the extended community.
IMPACT OF COVID-19
THT was planning a full 8th Season of programming to include three local musical productions and multiple fundraising events. The volunteer base was planning to assist the Executive Director with all aspects of this robust non- profit organization: bringing the local musicals to life on stage; helping with the new studio’s renovation; creating a Holiday Parade float; plus assisting at Brat Fry’s, Murder Mystery Dinners, family meal fundraisers at local restaurants, and the second annual Night in the Treehouse signature fundraiser.
Unfortunately, all THT youth arts programming ceased as of March 15, 2020, and the number of volunteers working at the studio has dramatically declined. The small group of dedicated volunteers who continue to work with subcontractors have understandably grown tired. As the pandemic continues, options for renewed THT programming in the near future remain bleak.
THT had selected an exciting 2020-21 Season of musicals, the Board had decided to move performances of the season’s fall and spring musicals to the beautiful Capitol Civic Centre (CCC), and the THT Education Committee was busy preparing a full slate of summer programming options. Obviously, all of these plans have come to a screeching halt and the CCC remains closed through year-end.
Remaining ever positive, THT is nearing completion of all requirements needed ahead of requesting inspections and occupancy for the first floor. The second floor remains with only framed walls. Once occupancy of the first floor is achieved, THT plans to hold Open Houses, each with a limited number of guests entering the studio to see our amazing progress to date. Progress photos of the studio renovation can be found on our Facebook page.
THT leadership would be greatly appreciative of any sized financial donation, noted to help maintain the Executive Director's stipend or to support the $25,000 deficit in the Capital Campaign.