PEQUOT LAKES -- If all goes as planned, theater enthusiasts in the lakes area will watch the opening night of the professional theater production of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" on Nov. 29, 2002, at the proposed $6.25 million Whitefish Center for the Arts, Inc. in Breezy Point.
On Monday, the Pequot Lakes School Board approved a resolution that allows Rick and Rose Larson, who are proposing the performing arts center, to move forward with their vision and explore whether the 25,000-square-foot facility could be built on the district's Breezy Point property, next to where the new elementary school will be built. They now need to come back to the board with a design and location for the facility.
The Larsons, Elk River residents who also own a townhome at Hay Lake Lodge in Pequot Lakes, are hoping to lease 10 acres of land from the district to build a 400-seat theater, a 200-seat imagination workshop stage, classrooms and dance studios.
Three of the Larsons' five sons are professional performers. The Larsons hope to create a Guthrie or Ordway Theatre nestled along Rice Lake in Breezy Point. So far, plans are to create a private non-profit facility where the Whitefish Theatre Co. would hire professional actors, including many from the Brainerd lakes area, to put on theatrical productions throughout the year, like "West Side Story" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Schoolchildren from as far away as Little Falls or Bemidji would travel to the facility to attend workshops or weeklong day camps, and busloads of students would attend matinee productions for them during the school day. Area artists from the Whitefish Artists Association would display their works in the two-story atrium overlooking the lower terrace, ponds and Rice Lake. Area schoolchildren would also be invited to audition and become trained to perform in an original Whitefish Youth Theatre production.
Rick Larson said the theater company would rely on corporate sponsorship, much like the professional theaters in the Twin Cities. It would also rely on revenues and sales, grants and donations. Larson said tickets would likely cost $30 and less.
He said the reason they chose Breezy Point, rather than the Brainerd/Baxter area, was the location of the property. Day campers would be able to learn hands-on about woods, water and wildlife from naturalists at the performing arts center. They are also hoping to attract the throngs of seasonal residents who live in the Twin Cities and attend the Guthrie or Ordway when they're at home, yet spend their summers in the lake country.
"We think there's a need and a market for it, but there isn't a venue for it," said Larson, who co-owns Prosource Educational Services, a school in St. Paul designed to allow professionals to take continuing education courses.
Larson said he doesn't believe the performing arts center would compete against area community productions, which receive strong community support. He said the Whitefish Theatre Co. would use the main stage 31 weeks out of the year while it would be reserved for community productions for 21 weeks each year.
On the recent school district community survey, many felt strongly that the district positively promotes community theater involvement in the community.
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