By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays Community Theatre cut the ribbon Friday on its new space downtown at the former Eagles Lodge, 121 E. Eighth St. during a Hays Area Chamber of Commerce event.
The 2,300-square-foot main hall has been renovated into a 150-person performance space. The entire building is about 3,000 square feet.
The theater is using the space to build props, sew costumes and rehearse for its upcoming summer performance of “The King and I.” Although “The King and I” will be performed at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center, the HCT performers can’t get in to Fort Hays State University venue until less than a week before the performance.
“The King and I” will be performed at 7 p.m. July 26, 27, and 28. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for youth 12 and younger. They can be purchased by going to the HCT website.
There will be a “King and I” preview during the Summer Art Walk from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the new theater.
Volunteers are still working on the space. ADA bathrooms are in the works, and HCT plans a remodel of the kitchen so that it can be used during dinner theaters.
The area where the restrooms are now will be converted into dressing rooms to be used when HCT hosts small productions in the Eighth Street location.
HCT received grants, private donations and in-kind gifts and labor for the renovations.
Travis Grizzell, board member, said it would be difficult to put a number on the total cost.
The former lodge’s drop ceilings tiles, which were stained yellow by cigarette smoke, were removed to reveal a lattice of trusses. The walls and the ceiling were painted. The tables and chairs were removed.
Gene Stramel, HCT president, said the new space scarcely resembles the old lodge.
“We are excited to have some shows and bring in some entertainment, so you will be able to see some things happening in here besides what’s happening in Beach/Schmidt and down at 12th Street,” he said.
Architect Lisa Brooksher said the construction crew tried to do as little as they could during the renovation in order to preserve the original structure.
“This was quite a project,” she said. “As many renovations go, you don’t necessarily know what you are getting into. We opened up as much of the ceiling as we could. We tried to do it as inexpensively as we could, but make it a special space. We got lucky that these trusses were here. They are the original trusses. Gella’s has the same truss design.”
The HCT also will rent the space for events, such as graduation parties, wedding receptions and banquets.
Stramel said HCT is always looking for volunteers. This can be on stage or behind the scenes working on costumes, sets, props or publicity. You can learn more about volunteering on the HCT website. Also follow HCT on Facebook.