History of Stage 9
Effective November 16, 2015, the Hutchinson Theatre Guild will retire its current brand and begin anew as Stage 9 just in time for its 100th Anniversary. While the Hutchinson Theatre Guild will continue to be registered as the 501(c)3 non-profit organization operating Stage 9, the Guild’s name will be dropped out of public use.
Stage 9 is no stranger to reinventing itself. Prior to being known as the Hutchinson Theatre Guild, Stage 9 has had many names, created and retired as the Hutchinson community has morphed and matured. The first version of Stage 9 was begun by Esther Wolcott in 1916. The Hutchinson Women’s Club presented The Trojan Women as its inaugural production.
Over the years, Stage 9 has been known as the Dramatic Arts Club, Prairie Players and the Red Barn Players until the Hutchinson Theatre Guild was formed in 1958. In 1968, the Hutchinson Theatre Guild registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Shortly after this, a forty-year old church at Avenue B and Plum was purchased in 1969. At this location, the Guild played to full houses in the 200-seat space, ran productions for two weekends and even shared the building with other cultural groups needing space for workshops and meetings.
In the early 1980s, when operation of the church as the theatre’s home became impossible, the Guild performed at local clubs, restaurants, the Kansas State Fairgrounds, the Fox, Hutchinson Community College, Hutchinson High School, the Hutchinson Arts Center, gymnasiums, outdoors and any venue that could be found to present quality productions. In 2011, the Board of Directors purchased 9 S. Main and completed an extensive renovation of the space. The retail space (which was most prominently remembered as the Renaissance Shoppe in recent years), was gutted and completely built from the ground up by volunteer or donated labor. The finished product opened in 2014. This 85 seat, intimate theatrical venue was named Stage 9, referring to the physical address of the space which is located at 9 South Main in Hutchinson, Kansas.
As the Hutchinson Theatre Guild solicited donations for the 2015 Season, an anonymous donor in Hutchinson gave $10,000 to be used for rebranding the organization. This donor, along with many members of the Hutchinson community, had concerns about the Hutchinson Theatre Guild brand as there was general consensus that people did not understand the difference between the physical playing space of productions and the organization producing them. It was confusing to hear both Stage 9 and the Hutchinson Theatre Guild in reference to the productions being presented at 9 South Main. The donor felt that the Guild had developed a reputation for being an exclusive organization, one which required invitation to participate which has never been true. The donor recommended Gardner Design, a nationally recognized branding firm based out of Wichita, Kansas to establish a new brand for the Hutchinson Theatre Guild.
Hutchinson residents are likely familiar with the work of Gardner Design as they are responsible for the rebranding work of both the Kwik Shop, the Hutchinson Regional Medical Center system and, most recently, the Cosmosphere. Additionally, Gardner Design is responsible for the creation of the Bluebird Books brand, a popular local bookstore just half a block away from Stage 9. Since February of 2015, Gardner Design has been working tirelessly with the Board of Directors on developing a revised brand to build upon and drive forward the success of the organization.
The newly revised Stage 9 brand emerged in summer of 2015 during the yearly retreat of the Board of Directors. Work on implementing the brand has been proceeding during the summer and fall. Finally, the Stage 9 brand emerged in its physical form through graphic design and brand standards which began to be implemented in October. Additionally, the exterior of 9 South Main has received a new façade with interior changes to be completed by the end of the week of November 9, 2015.
The Stage 9 brand is defined in both color and pattern to represent the broad diversity of programming and offerings to the community. In a carryover from the previous brand, a red color joins orange, grey and black in the new color palette of the organization. The word Stage now appears in a bold rectangular box representing the key feature of the organization, the stage of a theatre. The number 9 will be developed and engaged in the Hutchinson community so that the organization’s name becomes synonymous with the appearance of the number 9. Finally, unique visual patterns which represent the diversity of arts programming offered at Stage 9 will continue to build the Stage 9 brand.
While the most notable part of a rebranding effort might be the visual reset, Stage 9 is steadfastly committed to becoming a unique entertainment venue. Stage 9 will continue to work towards being inclusive and versatile in production and presentation. Finally, Stage 9 will strive to become a true community asset and a part of the vibrancy of the future of downtown Hutchinson and the Hutchinson community at large.
Stage 9 begins its 104th Anniversary Season in January. From special events to a mainstage season filled with new and exciting education programming, the 2020 Season is designed to continue Stage 9’s commitment to diverse offerings to the Hutchinson community.