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Park Square Theatre in St. Paul plans $4.2 million expansion

St. Paul’s Park Square Theatre, in the historic downtown Hamm Building, is raising $4.2 million for an aggressive expansion aimed at keeping theater thriving in the coming decades.

Plans call for new seats, equipment, lighting and cosmetic improvements to the main stage, according to Finance and Commerce. And they’ll build another new 142-seat basement semi-circular theater, accompanied by an adjacent performance/art gallery space.

In addition, theater officials also plan to use “$1 million for two separate endowment funds to help handle cash flow and set up an ‘artistic capital fund’ to assist in developing new work and in marketing the new theater to a different generation of audiences,” Finance and Commerce said.

Richard Cook and his partner, Steven Kent Lockwood, the executive director, took over the theater decades ago and now sees 53,000 patrons a year — 25,000 of them schoolchildren who come during the day to watch performances of plays such as “Mice and Men” and “Diary of Anne Frank.”

The second stage could be used by the theater’s artistic partners or to produce “riskier plays that likely could not fill all the seats in the main stage but would do fine in a more intimate venue.”

Despite the tough economic times, several corporations have already contributed to the expansion effort, including Ecolab, Travelers and General Mills. There’s a proposal in to St. Paul’s Cultural STAR program for a $210,000 grant.

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