Love Street Playhouse

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Woodland couple remodels church into small theater

By Leila Summers - The Daily News

WOODLAND --- Melinda Leuthold has big plans for her little theater.

Click to enlargeThe former church-turned-playhouse could soon host small plays, community movie nights, art displays, dance lessons and private parties, Leuthold said.

For a town without even a movie theater, her playhouse will fill a cultural gap in the community, Leuthold said.

"We want to make it social and fun. Right now we have nothing."

Called the "Love Street Playhouse" after its location on Love Street, the theater only awaits the blessings of City Hall before officially opening to the public. Until they get approval, the Leutholds can't charge admission to the building, which is located behind Big Deals.

Melinda, 42, and her husband Jeff Leuthold, 52, purchased the building nearly three years ago. Both viewed the building as a creative outlet: Jeff could remodel it as he saw fit; Melinda wanted to host community theater there.

So far, the Leutholds have hosted Irish dance classes and a few small church and children's plays there. As the mother of an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, Melinda plans to keep plays and movie nights family-oriented and affordable, she said.

"We want our children to be included in everything we do," she said.

If the playhouse grows, and city officials allow productions in the low-density residential area, Melinda Leuthold hopes to form a local acting troupe.

"I've had a lot of people show interest," she said, regarding a possible casting call.

Leuthold estimated 40 to 50 people could attend a dinner-theater production, another idea she has for the playhouse. She and her husband are considering fitting an attachable stage to their existing stage in case a play needs more space, she said.

Before moving to Woodland, Leuthold said she studied acting in Portland. When they aren't working on the Love Street Theater, Jeff and Melinda work on their blueberries and Christmas tree farm in east Woodland.

Theater has been a passion for most of her life, Melinda Leuthold said.

"I've always wanted my own theater. That has always been my heart's desire."