If we were at the theater, the lights now would be flickering to signal the start of the third and final act.
Leaders with Theatre Lawrence announced Friday that their efforts to raise funds for a $6.2 million theater building have passed the $5 million mark. But the group also is warning that it has only until the end of September to secure pledges for the remaining $1.1 million.
“It has been so wonderful how the entire community has gotten behind this,” said Mary Doveton, executive director of Theatre Lawrence. “Now, we just want to encourage everyone to help us take that last step to make this happen.”
The project has received $1.5 million in out-of-state challenge grants. A condition of those grants is that the theater meet its fundraising goal by this fall. If the effort falls short, the theater will lose the $1.5 million in grants.
Theater leaders received a major boost in recent weeks with a $300,000 donation from Bobby and Eleanor Patton of Lawrence. Theatre Lawrence — formerly known as Lawrence Community Theatre — also received a sizable donation from the Sunderland Family Foundation of Overland Park.
Plans call for the theater to build a new 300-seat facility in the Bauer Farm development near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. The development group for Bauer Farm already has donated the property for the theater. Doveton said if fundraising concludes in September, construction could begin in the late winter or early spring. Construction is expected to last 12 to 15 months.
Doveton said convincing donors that a newer facility is needed has not been difficult. The theater currently is housed in a 65-year old church building at 15th and New Hampshire streets.
“Everybody is interested in more comfortable seats,” Doveton said of her discussion with donors. “After that, they are most interested in parking, accessibility and restrooms.”
The new facility will almost double the seating capacity, will no longer require patrons to use on-street parking, and will have brand new amenities, including a dedicated area for children’s programs.
Doveton said the group now is trying to get its fundraising message out to the broader community. She said she’s optimistic the organization will meet its goal.
“People are excited about theater in Lawrence,” Doveton said. “In the past year, of our six major productions, three have sold out and we’ve had to add performances and we still have turned people away.”