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.