A Founders Reception was held recently on the first anniversary of the re-opening of The Rees Theatre in downtown Plymouth.  It was a day to reflect on the many blessings that collectively allowed for the restoration of this historic venue that over the past year has become one of the area’s brightest spots for movies, live entertainment, and private events.  Project co-chair, Randy Danielson stated: “With the excitement and details of opening day, we may not have properly thanked and acknowledged those who gave so much of themselves, by way of local contributions through volunteer hours, materials, professional services, and monetary donations.”

The event was underwritten by a corporate donor and Everwise Credit Union whose project gift beautifully restored the theater’s ticket booth and will call window.  They were joined by Christos Family Dining and Catering, La D’zert Café, and A.S.K. For Flowers.

As guests toured, they were treated to a medley of classical piano music coming from a digital baby grand piano, a gift from the First Presbyterian Church in memory of community leader Randy Bowser.  It now resides in the orchestra pit that was named in memory of Kenneth Con Hallman, a Plymouth Lincoln High School vocal and instrumental music teacher in the 1950s.  The orchestra pit was made possible by former student and 1957 grad Michael and Barbara Smith.

The Bob Pickell Performing Arts Stage was funded by the community in memory of Bob’s 38-year career as a music educator in Plymouth Community Schools.  Highlighted on the stage was a vocal and instrumental performance by Meg Robinson, a former student of Mr. Pickell’s and a 2023 PHS grad, who was named recipient of the Bob Pickell Music Scholarship and is attending Ball State University.  Project co-chair, Donna Pontius shared with those assembled that Meg worked an entire summer and gave those proceeds to the Pickell stage fund.

Looking back on the effort to initially save The REES, thanks and recognition were given to owners of two downtown businesses who came together to purchase the historic structure in 2013: Jim & Judy Vinall and Brian & Lori VanDuyne.  They were able to stabilize a wall from collapse, maintain the roof, and keep the heat on.

Credit for the idea of repurposing The REES has often been attributed to groups of Lincoln Junior High eighth-grade students during a presentation at The Wild Rose Moon in the Fall of 2015. This was a joint humanities class project by instructors Amy Walker and Jake Singleton challenging students to think creatively about their community and what features would enhance their desire to remain grounded in Plymouth.  Several mentioned The REES including Hugh Smith, currently a senior at Notre Dame who remotely shared his thoughts from campus with those gathered.  Hugh, along with classmates Hailey Casper, Matthew Champion, Sydnee Smith, Andie Kizer, Olyvia Clark, Drew Harrell, and Austin DeLee returned as volunteer workers during the restoration.  

The first two donor couples were then recognized: Cliff & Kitty Allen, and Jim & Ann Davis along with the largest means of support coming from the City of Plymouth Redevelopment Commission, Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority, and Stellar Communities.

The artistic/educational director for The REES, Kathryn Anders addressed those attending with her love of bringing a variety of events to the space and sharing the activity of having 158 in its first year alone.  Anders said: “We will be bringing in more educational programming this next year including improv classes every Saturday morning in November.  It is through community sponsorships that we are able to sustain and enhance programming here at The REES.  Become a member and or plan to volunteer.”

The spotlight was then cast upon the effect that three generations of one local family had on this community and The REES.  Danielson stated: “In 1933, some ninety years ago, they established a business on West LaPorte Street not a half block from this very theater.  The families of Herbert, Daniel, and David Gibson have been pioneers in ensuring the strength of our community through risk management.  Gibson Insurance Agency was born, and they have instilled a culture of ‘giving back’ as we have all witnessed in the communities they serve in so many ways, but none more than their support of the Arts.”  Ginny Gibson was most instrumental in creating what became known as ENCORE, an organization for the performing arts. 

GIBSON as it has grown to be known, is an employee-owned company with offices in six locations assisting clients in finding their edge while providing insurance, benefits, safety, and compliance in today’s business world.

This legacy of giving continues today while greatly blessing the Boys & Girls Club of Marshall County, Marshall County Community Foundation, Marshall County Arts & Culture Council, The Wild Rose Moon, and the new REES Theatre.  In honor of the Gibson Family, the company and the employee-owned families Danielson and Pontius joined in announcing the naming of the “GIBSON Auditorium at The REES”.

Accepting for GIBSON was Art Jacobs who is an employee/owner and former projectionist at The REES in the 1970’s while in high school.  He praised the restoration of The REES for being a great asset to the Plymouth community.

Tickets for events are available through the website: www.reestheatre.com, Fernbaugh’s Jewelers, or at the Everwise ticket booth prior to the event.  To view a restoration timeline video and many others, please visit the REES YouTube channel: https:www.youtube.com/@TheREESTheatre