BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji Community Theater will officially kick off a capital campaign in a theatrical way on Friday, Oct. 25, at its new Performing Arts Center, a building that once housed S&L Clothing and Book World.
BCT will present “An Evening of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” a gala that will feature special musical performances by local actors and vocalists, plus appetizers, a cash bar and silent auction. It’s all part of a campaign with a fundraising goal of $80,000 to renovate the building at 316 Beltrami Ave. NW. Well-known Bemidji actor Kevin Cease will serve as master of ceremonies.
“We’re having some marvelous talent from around Bemidji singing,” said Vicki Stenerson, vice president of the BCT’s board of directors. Performers will include Phil Hartman, Linda Wagner, Julie Kaiser, Allison Cease, Adrienne and Mitch Eickman and Steven and Anna Mayer. With piano accompaniment, they will sing tunes from Lloyd Webber’s musicals “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
It all starts at 6 p.m. with a social hour. The musical program and silent auction will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are $25 and available at Ken K. Thompson Jewelry and Iverson Corner Drug.
The BCT purchased the building last year. It has 7,000 square feet on the main floor, another 7,000 downstairs and about 3,500 in a mezzanine level. Renovation plans include creating a movable stage in the center of the main level with seating for up to 175 people. The stage could face in any direction.
“We are continually amazed at the amount of space we have,” said Kristine Cannon, secretary of the BCT board. “It just has to be configured properly.”
Cannon said there have been some surprises as the theater group has prepared the building for renovations. “When it was renovated for Book World,” she said, “any space that they didn’t want or need, they just put all the junk in it and walled it off. So we cut out some walls. We found a defunct bathroom that had 200 fluorescent bulbs and a large metal water fountain. It was kind of like spelunking for treasure.”
The first major production in the new building will be “The Trip to Bountiful,” scheduled for May of 2020. The BCT also will continue to use the Chief Theater for some of its productions.
Cannon said the group hopes to exceed its $80,000 goal.
“We will task our board and our members to go out and seek financial support from friends and neighbors,” she said. “We will certainly want grants and larger donations, But this theater may be built $20 at a time. We have to have patience.
“While $80,000 is a big number when you start looking at $20 at a time, it’s not an outrageous goal,” Cannon added. “And it’s not like the money is just going to sit in the bank. When we get the $5,000 to put in the electrical subfeed we’ll probably do it. This entire project is a phased-in project. It was a bare, blank building, and now it’s a home.”
Architectural renderings of the project will be displayed, and tours of the facility will be available during the gala.