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Theatre L'Homme Dieu partners with ATCC to improve facility

Performers will tread a brand-new stage at Theatre L'Homme Dieu, thanks to a Lake Region Arts Council grant.1 / 2
Theatre L'Homme Dieu sports a new box office window and a black stripe on top, thanks to a trio of students at Alexandria Technical and Community College.2 / 2

When a Beatles tribute band takes the stage at Theatre L'Homme Dieu on Thursday and Friday, they'll tread brand-new boards.

"Our stage was in major need of repair," said Nicole Mulder, the theater's interim executive director. "It wasn't safe. It wasn't level."

Thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Lakes Region Arts Council and some donors, the stage is new from the cement up. The theater also worked with three design students from Alexandria Technical and Community College to redesign the box office, lighting and paint colors. The college's interior design department looks for real-world projects that its students can work on. Sometimes the customers uses their ideas, but not always.

"We explained that everything you do has to enhance the customer experience," Mulder said. "If it doesn't enhance it, don't present it to me."

The three students, Darla McWilliam, Emma Olfson and Holly Sevald, went to the site, took measurements and interviewed board members about what they wanted to achieve with the project, said their instructor, Robyn Stepaniak. They created a floor plan and a 3-D model and made a presentation to the theater board.

The theater board was impressed.

"We are doing almost all their recommendations," Mulder said. "They nailed it."

Viking ship inspired

Theatre L'Homme Dieu started in 1961. Built to resemble the inside of a vast Viking ship, it seats 272. Its last major renovation came about a decade ago with a redesigned lobby. Its last collaboration with the college came in 1975, when it built staff cabins.

The theater campus includes housing for visiting artists. Once a resort famous for its chicken dinners, staff raised and butchered chickens right on the property, and servers lived on site, said LaVeda Holtberg, the theater's marketing manager.

Because of the interior design students, a dark stripe now runs across the top of the exterior cinder blocks. They also recommended a much larger window for the box office and chose white paint for the bathroom walls. The theater retains its semi-rustic feel, with screen doors that let breezes and bird song into the lobby.

The theater will also install bathroom signs with braille and new playbills that allow more information about each show.

Next up for the theater is a land survey and dirt work to channel stormwater away from the theater and that will result in a garden and patio where visitors can relax before performances, Mulder said. That project is at least a year away.

Beatles tribute Thursday

Visitors can see the changes starting this Thursday, when Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience will take requests for more than 200 songs of the Fab Four.

Other concerts scheduled for this year include "Rumours & Dreams," a Fleetwood Mac tribute on July 5; and "Remembering Bobby Vee" from August 15-16.

Theater performances include "Sweetland: The Musical" from June 20-25; "Church Basement Ladies in Rise Up, O Men!" from June 27-July 2; "The Gin Game" from July 11-16; "Seedfolks" from July 18-23; and "Million Dollar Quartet" from August 1-6.

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