In 1931 a small group of young adults from Manitowoc, WI announced their intention to form an amateur dramatic society known as the Manitowoc Masquers. After merging with another group from nearby Two Rivers we changed our name to the Lakeshore Masquers. Eventually we reorganized and incorporated as a non-profit organization bearing the current name - The Masquers, Inc. Our first play, The Whole Town's Talking, was presented on December 16, 1931, at Lincoln High School as a benefit performance to aid The Community Chest, which we know today as The United Way. The Masquers second play was a comedy called You and I and was produced at the Capitol Theatre.
Meetings and rehearsals were held in homes, schoolrooms, banks and church halls until a room was rented in the old Windiate Rooming House at 6th and York streets. This building was razed during the 1970's to make way for the Medical Arts Building. Sets were built in various places including member's garages.
Plays continued to be produced at Lincoln High School, but in 1941 productions were moved to the Washington Jr. High School auditorium. Sets were also built and stored there, in the gymnasium. It wasn't until an early musical production, The Merry Widow, was presented in 1959 that The Masquers moved to Woodrow Wilson Jr. High School, which became our home until 1987 when the Capitol Civic Centre opened its newly renovated doors for use by community groups.
In March of 1944, the Coach House next to the Rahr-West Civic Center was purchased from Mrs. Reinhart Rahr. The building was remodeled to provide storage space for scenery and costumes, a meeting and rehearsal room, and a room for building sets. At that point, The Masquers ultimate dream was to remodel the Coach House further to create a 300-seat auditorium. The first play program after the purchase of the Coach House carried the familiar Masquers logo, which we retain today. Incidentally, ticket prices at that time were only 65¢ for adults and 35¢ for students.
Through the years, The Masquers has been possessed of community spirit, from that first benefit performance to today's scholarships that are presented to students of the arts each year. At various times we have also had traveling shows or reader's theater productions available for civic organizations at no charge. The group has also made many donations to worthwhile enterprises such as the Peter Quince Performing Co., the Manitowoc Public Library, The Capitol Civic Centre, as well as local not for profit organizations.
Thanks to the magic of trusses, we were be able to eliminate all the support posts in the middle of the scene shop and add 500 square feet of storage space in the new bonus room above the shop.
Maintaining a 100 plus year old building is not without its challenges. In recent years we have found our little Coach House to be a little cramped, not to mention it can get drafty in the winter. As a result, we have decided to do some renovations.
Our scene shop (garage), which had a flat roof, received a face lift in the fall of 2013. Gone is the flat roof, which was once known as the "patio", and in its place we added a gable roof that continues the roof line of the Coach House to the back of the building. Thanks to the magic of trusses we were able to eliminate all the support posts in the middle of the scene shop and add 500 square feet of rehearsal space in the new bonus room above the shop.
Naturally, the new project included new energy efficient insulation, updated electrical and a new heating system for the shop. The renovations eliminated many of our energy wasting doors and windows and has gone a long way toward reducing our heating expenses.
In more recent years we have replaced sewer lines to the street, added a fence along the north property line, and renewed our landscaping. We are also upgrading electrical systems and replacing flooring where needed. It's a never-ending process keeping our home upgraded and usable. If you would like to help us in our pursuit to maintain the coach house please click the link below.
The purpose of The Masquers shall be to establish a community theater in the Manitowoc/Two Rivers area to provide education and culture in the form of dramatic productions presented for the benefit of the citizens of the lakeshore area; to provide an outlet for the members of the corporation and citizens of the area to learn the theater arts and express their dramatic abilities; to provide a means by which amateur dramatic talent can be developed; and to do whatever properly may be incidental to such purposes.
From the beginning The Masquers was organized for the benefit of our members and the community. While that is certainly worthy motivation it doesn't do much to pay the bills. So, also early on, The Masquers took the time and effort to register with the IRS as a non-profit organization and receive 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. This makes raising needed funding more appealing for our donors, and is almost a necessity in today's world.