Minneapolis, Minnesota

Whatever damage the recession has visited upon nonprofit arts organizations, the effects appear to have passed over the Park Square Theatre, based in downtown St. Paul’s Hamm Building, located at Seventh Place and St. Peter Street. With a current annual operating budget of approximately $1.8 million, Park Square claims to produce more shows than any theater in the Twin Cities except The Guthrie and Children’s Theatre.

The company – which believes that “every year you’re not growing you’re shrinking” –  has raised $1 million toward a Next Stage capital campaign goal of $4.2 million. Beginning in July 2010, these funds will result in new seats, carpeting, and wall coverings in the 340-seat mainstage auditorium, along with energy efficient lights and new production equipment.

Michael-jon Pease, Park Square’s director of external relations, outlined the intents and purposes of the capital drive for 28 actors and others who attended a Nov. 23 reception and tour in the Hamm Building.

The  campaign results from an 18-month planning process aimed at organizational transformation. In addition to renovating the mainstage facility, the campaign will provide $1.5 million for a new, second theater with 140 seats situated around three sides of a thrust stage on the lower level of the Hamm Building; $1 million to build organizational capacity over seven years; $500,000 for working capital; and $500,000 for an artistic capital fund that will underwrite the new productions made possible by the operation of two theaters.

The second theater is projected to open in November 2011, and will include an art gallery and lounge.

The Next Stage expansion seeks to increase the range of work presented, from nine to 18 annual productions, providing opportunities for larger, more diverse, and younger audiences to experience more diverse and challenging plays. Annual attendance is projected to grow from the current 53,000 people to 86,000. Much of that growth, 15,000 annually, will occur among student attendees, bringing the annual number of teens served to 40,000 – one of the largest student segments of any theater in the U.S.

The larger operation will allow Park Square to employ more than its current level of 100 artists annually with improved wages and a greater selection of roles. Half of the productions in the second theater will involve collaborations of two-to-three years’ duration with other theater companies.

Staffing will increase from the present 11 positions to 14 or 15.

Of the theater’s more than 3,000 subscribers, 42% have been with the company for five years or more. Ticket pricing will be the same for both theater spaces.

Park Square Theatre was founded in 1974 and moved into the Hamm Building in 1995. The building also is home to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Artists Quarter jazz club, Great Waters Restaurant, and the Meritage Restaurant.

Park Square Theatre’s production of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” directed by Richard Cook, will run Dec. 3-20. For tickets call 651.291.7005 or visit parksquaretheatre.org. The theater’s lobby gallery currently displays original, abstract landscape paintings by Kate Pearce.

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