Archive for Saturday, May 5, 2012

Groundbreaking to set stage for new Theatre Lawrence facility

May 5, 2012


Theatre Lawrence will break ground this week on a new theater and performance space. The new theater, seen in this rendering, features double the seating capacity and adds classrooms and improved parking for patrons.

Theatre Lawrence will break ground this week on a new theater and performance space. The new theater, seen in this rendering, features double the seating capacity and adds classrooms and improved parking for patrons.

Theatre Lawrence will break ground this week on its new facility, which has its leaders counting down the days until they’ll escape routine scenarios like this one:

Last week, the group members had a late-afternoon meeting with an architect in the lower level of the retrofitted church the group now calls home, executive director Mary Doveton says. They had to end the meeting so a children’s class upstairs could move downstairs, enabling an adult tap-dancing class to begin and finish in the upstairs space before actors showed up to rehearse “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“Right now we are so crammed,” Doveton says. “All of our programs are just jammed into this very small space. We’re turning kids away from children’s programs. We have things stored at three separate locations around town. We’ve had to add performances to shows this year — we’ve sold out three of our productions.”

The public is invited to the groundbreaking ceremony, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at 4660 Bauer Farm Drive. The site is in the Bauer Farm development at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. Doveton hopes the new building will open in a year.

It will be the first time Theatre Lawrence — which celebrated its 35th anniversary last month — has had a home designed just for it.

In its first show, the troupe formerly known as Lawrence Community Theater performed “The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild” in the Carnegie Library building at 200 W. Ninth St., Doveton says. Then they squeezed in shows wherever they could — including South Park and even the Teepee Junction.

The group bought the church at 1501 N.H. in 1984 and had its first show there in 1985. Plans for the new building call for a 300-seat theater with dressing rooms and offices, plus an education wing with classrooms and outdoor space.

To build the new facility, Theatre Lawrence raised about $6.5 million, a feat Doveton describes as a “phenomenal” community effort. In addition to private donors, the Lawrence City Commission and the Douglas County Commission each pledged $100,000 to the project over the next five years, helping Theatre Lawrence exceed its initial fundraising goal of $6.2 million.

Doveton says building costs have gone up since plans were first announced. The $6.5 million would pay for only construction of the building, and the theater would continue raising money for furnishings and equipment.

The late George Woodyard, a Spanish professor and former dean of international studies at Kansas University, helped lead Theatre Lawrence’s fundraising campaign, and his sister Mabel Woodyard’s estate donated $1 million to the effort.

Eleanor Woodyard said space afforded by the new facility would help achieve her husband’s vision of exposing everybody — “young to old, rich to poor” — to theater.

“This building should be a wonderful facility for everybody in the community, to use and to come and enjoy,” she said.


skinny 6 years ago

To bad they didn't make it a dinner theatre.

Steve Jacob 6 years ago

Someday, we will have a library groundbreaking, well I hope so, since I have been paying for it.

Jayhawk1958 6 years ago

So my tax dollars go to entertainment that only rich people want and can afford it?

Eddie Muñoz 6 years ago

My tax dollars are going to wars I don't want.

You take the good with the bad.

Jayhawk1958 6 years ago

Wow. What a stupid comparison. I assume you are rich then.

Jayhawk1958 6 years ago

And at a location where people cannot attend because they don't have transportation.

kansasredlegs 6 years ago

Ms. Shepherd: Your story is factually inaccurate. The City & County Commissions were simply asked to help bridge the financial gap just in case the theatre missed its fundraising goal. The theatre stated to each commission that this funding request was only to make sure it did not lose grants that mandated fundraising goals. After securing taxpayer funding to secure its grant funding position, the theatre joyously announced it had exceeded its private fundraising goals WITHOUT taxpayer funds. This means taxpayer money is no longer required for its stated purpose. Ms. Doveton needs to go before each commission and state, "Thanks, but no thanks.". I can't recall who posted it, but the poster wrote that eventually the taxpayer money would become "operational / maintenance money" . He or she was wrong, it's become the, "Oops, the cost has gone up & We didn't factor in furniture money."

Step up Ms. Doveton and give the taxpayers back our money and get back at the trough with others wanting taxpayer handouts if more money is wanted, 'er needed.

Terry Sexton 6 years ago

Haters gonna hate & potatoes gonna potate. My property tax payin' self sez it's a worthy endeavor. We're funding an economic & cultural community asset for pennies on the dollar. Break a leg, Theater Lawrence.

Dan Blomgren 6 years ago

Has it ever dawned on you that the placement at 6th and Wak came from several factors including: 1. a study of the demographics of those that attend 2. the land was donated if I'm not mistaken 3. the visibility factor allowing for greater acceptance and participation by the whole community 4. ease of ingress and egress 5. possibility of a Topeka draw Or do you all just want to ch for the sake of ching. And people this is a Community Theater where ticket prices average $20 for a live show. How is that possibly considered geared towards the 'wealthy'? If it had been built on the Eastside would anyone of you attend a performance? Or do you just want to bi to hear yourself bi!

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