Archive for Thursday, June 6, 2013

Theatre Lawrence grand opening this weekend

June 6, 2013


The burgundy stage curtain inside the new Theatre Lawrence matches the building's sleek, modern exterior. Inside, countless windows provide a panoramic view of West Lawrence. Sunlight even streams into the organization's basement classrooms and dance studio.

It's all a radical change from the funky old brownstone church on New Hampshire Street that was the theater's former home.

After more than 30 years, Lawrence's community theater has moved five miles across town to its new location at 4660 Bauer Farm Drive, in front of Free State High School. The public will get its first glimpse of the facility this Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., when visitors can explore the new 35,000-square-feet facility on their own or take a tour with a volunteer. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 2:15 p.m.

Donors to the nearly $7 million theater will get a sneak peek at a private dinner on Friday and a cocktail party Saturday. About $200,000 of the building's cost came from city and county commissions; the remaining budget came from private donations and matching foundation grants.

Mary Doveton, Theatre Lawrence's executive director, say she is grateful to the community that came together to bring this dream to fruition.

"Donors ranged from people bringing in their piggy banks to contributions of $1 million," Doveton said. "They really came in from everywhere."

The organization has exceeded its originally set fundraising goal of $6.3 million, but the current $6.8 million raised was used entirely for construction costs. Theatre Lawrence still is seeking donors for necessary equipment and furniture. Doveton says it was important to spend the money on construction costs to lay the foundation for the future.

"We wanted to create an infrastructure to allow the community to grow into the theater," Doveton said.

Grand Opening visitors will walk in to find an expansive box office, 300-seat auditorium and and an art exhibition featuring local artists.

Doveton worked with architects to help design the theater building with features actors, stagehands and volunteers would need. For instance, two large dressing rooms adjacent to the stage entrance even have their own bathrooms, a benefit Doveton does not take for granted.

"In the old theater, it was kind of a joke," Doveton said. "The one bathroom in the church was upstairs, and the pipes ran behind the back wall of the stage, so no one could use the restroom during a performance."

Tucked behind the auditorium is the set shop, a luxury Theatre Lawrence did not have at its old location. Complete with a loading dock and 18-foot garage door to the stage, it allows crews to build large backdrops safely and out of the way, then move them into place in one piece.

Underneath the set shop is the expansive costume shop, housing all of Theatre Lawrence's clothing, previously scattered in five different storage facilities across town. Outfits for "Ragtime," the first show set to open in the new theater, on June 21, sit in the laundry and sewing room next to the costume shop.

Doveton says the group chose the musical for the new auditorium's premiere production because it showcases the diversity of the Lawrence community. "Ragtime" tells the story of a poor black family, an elite white family and a Jewish immigrant family struggling with the conundrum of wealth and poverty in early 20th-century New York. Actors of many races will perform in the 41-member cast, whose ages range from 10 years old to late 70s.

"Everybody is working on a common purpose in the show," Doveton said. "Much like the community that made all of this possible."

The Journal-World will have a full backstage tour of the new Theatre Lawrence in the Sunday A&E; section on June 16.


friendlyjhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

Donors are everyone in Lawrence who paid so the city commission could donate our money to the facility. Do we all get invited to the cocktail party?

Ginny Hedges 4 years, 11 months ago

My invitation must have been lost in the mail. LOL

Daniel Bone 4 years, 11 months ago

You want to decide exactly what things should be paid for to enrich our community, run for a commission seat.

msezdsit 4 years, 11 months ago

While the new theatre will be enjoyed by many, (hopefully the performers), it has now changed from a very hands on grass roots and very passionate group (the MVP donors) that now includes a lot of people who don't fall into that category. I hope some (most) of the original group of people don't eventually feel vacated because they were the formula that made this a wonderful experience for Lawrence. They need to be the people who continue to lead the theatre and not pushed to the back row. Thanks to all you people, you know who your are. Best of Luck in your new digs!!!!

Currahee 4 years, 11 months ago

So that's what that new building was.. I had no idea..

Knute Pittenger 4 years, 11 months ago

Funky old brownstone church on New Hampshire street? Funky old brownstone church on New Hampshire street? Not in a million years. That funky brownstone church on New Hampshire street made many people happy on both sides of the stage . More than you can possibly imagine. I am looking forward to the new theatre as well. But always remember that the funky old brownstone church on New Hampshire street got us where we are today. Many happy memories for very many people. Sorry. Just kinda rubbed me the wrong way.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 11 months ago

According to the Urban Dictionary funky can mean different but cool/nice or a bad smell. I believe that Caitlin meant the former.

George_Braziller 4 years, 11 months ago

It's former church built with brown bricks, not a brownstone. They are completely different in both materials and architectural style.

overthemoon 4 years, 11 months ago

And the architects were? These things don't just pop out of the ground on their own yet there has always been a 'policy' at the LJWorld to never mention the architects who have often worked for a year or more to get a major construction project designed and built.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.