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Papermill raising funds for capital campaign despite economy

March 04, 2009
LINCOLN—Despite a flagging economy, the Papermill Theatre is raising money to build a new building and replace its current structure, which will be torn down in the fall at the end of the season.

During a recent meeting of the Lincoln-Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, the chairman of the Papermill Capital Campaign Committee, Al Simensen, gave an update where things stand raising money. He was joined by newly appointed executive director, Kim Frydman.

"We're at a critical stage, as the current building is to be torn down in the fall," Frydman said.

Simensen acknowledged these are tough times to raise money.

"People probably think we're out of our minds to raise money right now, it's not something I want to be doing right now but we have no choice," Simensen said.

The objective of the campaign is to raise $2.3 million for a 250-seat theatre that will open June 2010. It will be a multi-use venue and eventually will become the Papermill's dedicated children's theatre called Jean's Playhouse once the new permanent Papermill is built, which will not be for at least several years. It will also be used to store props for the main theatre.

When the new Papermill is built it will be the centerpiece of the new Inn Seasons Resort grand hotel, scheduled to be built over the next few years where the current theatre stands, on the site of the former paper mill that once dominated the town. While the resort is providing the space for the new theatre, several million dollars will be needed to finish the theatre.

In the meantime, Jean's Playhouse must open next June, Simensen said, to hold productions until the complete structure is built.

The theatre can't afford to close for a season and neither can the community, Simensen said. Over 60 percent of ticket revenues comes from tourists, he said, so it would help both the community and theatre to be open for the season, even if the building wasn't finished.

The theatre will be a stand-alone building that will abut the Riverwalk project, near where the Riverwalk Park is planned to be built, and will be within walking distance from the Inn Seasons Resort hotel and theatre.

Jean's Playhouse will cost $2.6 million, $500,000 of which is already available from the Hallager family, major contributors to the theatre. The family has also donated $250,000 to be put in an endowment to pay for theatre maintenance. The theatre will be named after Jean Hallager.

Another $122,000 in gifts is also available, he said.

Simensen encouraged people to donate money and said there are excellent tax benefits to be received from large donations. A $10,000 donation will ultimately only cost someone $1,100 because of tax benefits.

Martin Lord Osman
Tilton School
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