The sweaty volunteers streamed by, one wearing a green cat head, another carrying a cymbal, another an old painting.
It was moving day for Theatre Lawrence, one of many over the past three weekends as the local institution relocates more than three decades worth of props, costumes and equipment to its new home in West Lawrence.
And it's all being done with the help of volunteers, some of whom have no affiliation with the former Lawrence Community Theatre, which has been at 1501 New Hampshire St. since 1984. About 75 people have so far donated their time, and theater officials are hoping that even more will decide to in the future. Their help has been greatly appreciated — and needed.
"It's like a clown car — things keep coming out, coming out, coming out," said theater director Mary Doveton. "You wonder how everything fit in there to begin with."
Even so, the items at the theater were a small fraction of the nonprofit's overall inventory. Because of the building's limited size, the theater has long had to store items like costumes and props at other locations around Lawrence, including an airport hangar and a warehouse on Haskell Avenue. Doveton said a recent wardrobe move from one of the storage units resembled New York's garment district, with people pushing long racks of fur coats and other costumes down the street.
With the move, which officials say is nearly 15 years in the making, the theater will more than triple in size, from roughly 10,000 square feet to about 35,000. The grand opening for the new $6.5 million space at 4660 Bauer Farm Drive is scheduled for June 7-9, with the first performance, "Ragtime: The Musical," set for June 21.
"We've outgrown this building, and our programs have expanded a lot, especially our youth theater programs," said Peter Hansen, the Theatre Lawrence board member who is organizing the move.
The small stage has limited the types of plays that could be performed there, and the backstage area is essentially nonexistent. The number of seats in the theater will double from 150 to 300.
On Sunday, Lawrence resident Kevin Kelly decided to give back to a place that has provided him and his family with so much joy over the years. His father was in the Lawrence Community Theatre's debut play, as well as the first in its current building; his niece was in one as well. Kelly himself has taken part in a handful of performances, including his personal favorite, "Our Town."
"It's sad to be closing down this place, because of the memories," he said, taking a breather from carrying furniture and props Sunday afternoon. "But the move is a great next step for the theater."
Lawrence resident Frank McCollum was one of those who gave his time even though he had no connections to the theater. "I just wanted to help out," he said, setting down a large dresser drawer next to the 15th Street curb. "And I got to see the new place."
Volunteers will continue moving out of the New Hampshire Street building, which is currently for sale, until it's empty. Anyone interested in helping out can contact Hansen at 785-550-4467.