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Mouse River Players Theater begins fundraising for building renovations

A rendering shows the new look on the exterior of the Mouse River Players building, including new signage with information on upcoming shows. Submitted Photo

Mouse River Players Community Theater launches a fund drive today for a lobby renovation project tentatively planned for completion by the fall of 2022.

“We’re doing this for our patrons. This is for them,” said MRP President Heather Speer.

Planned changes to the Arlene Theater at 115 1st Street SE in downtown Minot include expanding and renovating the current lobby and relocating bathrooms from the auditorium to the lobby area and giving them an updated look. This will create more space in both the lobby area and the women’s restroom and will help to reduce crowding and lines in a post-COVID world, according to MRP.

Concessions will be available via a new lobby window, which should prevent crowding at the back of the theater. The front (western face) of the theater will be updated with new signage and surface materials to help with the building’s long-term sustainability.

The cost of the project is estimated at $350,000. MRP has applied for a grant from Verendrye Electric and has contributed $10,000 of its own funds. The cash on hand is allowing the theater group to begin working with Ackerman-Estvold on the project. The timeline calls for raising funds through the coming year in hopes of beginning project design in the spring of 2022. Construction could start the following June. Work should be completed before the the start of MRP’s 2022-23 season that fall.

The existing Mouse River Players building features a mural on the south side, but the western-facing front is due for an update under plans for renovation. Submitted Photo

MRP purchased the former Labor Temple for a theater in 2004.

“The only thing we did in the lobby area was some cosmetic work to make it look a little better because it was pretty bad when we got it,” said Ken Haarstad, a member of the project committee. “Both of the bathrooms open into the auditorium, and the concession stand opens into the auditorium, so there’s really a problem when patrons arrive before the show and before we open the doors. There’s no access to the bathrooms.”

The lobby also has an office situated in such a way as to divide the available space, leaving just a hallway for patrons. Plans are to open the area into a lobby that is more welcoming and conducive to accommodating people as they arrive for shows, Haarstad said.

The COVID-19 pandemic heightened awareness of the need for more space than provided by a hallway.

“It’s just not ideal anymore for what we need to be able to offer our patrons for safety and comfort,” Speer said.

The fundraising is led by a 10-member committee consisting of organization members and external representatives who bring important expertise to the committee.

The committee’s first task was to look at the feasibility of a project, said project director Cathy Haarstad. Members decided to move ahead after determining the project is doable at this time despite the impacts of COVID-19, she said.

The committee will be seeking grants and is creating a video to be shown prior to MRP productions to let theater-goers know about the project and how they can contribute.

MRP plans to create an honor wall to recognize donors. Donors who give from $1,000 to $4,999 will be identified on nameplates on a plaque. Donors who give $5,000 to $9,999 will have their names engraved on stars. Donors who contribute $10,000 or more will be recognized with individual plaques. There also may be naming rights for donors who sponsor features in the renovated area.

MRP seeks both individual and business partners to contribute to the project.

“This is their community theater,” Cathy Haarstad said.

Tax-deductible donations can be made online through the MRP website at mouseriverplayers.com. The organization also welcomes pledges. The committee can be contacted by email at mouseriverplayers1@gmail.com.

MRP has hosted 289 plays and music reviews during its 50 years of operation as an all-volunteer theater. Its productions reach about 3,500 individuals each year from Minot and the surrounding area.

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