Hello and welcome back! This edition we’ll fill you in on what’s been going on behind the curtain of the construction project to the north of the theater in the old Hallmark Building, and what to expect at the WYO Theater this summer. But first, a little history . . .
In the early 2000s, the WYO Theater board of directors began dreaming of expanding the WYO — more wing space was needed, the system that drops in the lights and backdrops needed to be updated, room for college classes and a second performance space were all part of the dream. In 2013, a capital campaign was launched in partnership with Sheridan College and the city of Sheridan and close to $5 million was raised to make that dream a reality.
The Mars Black Box Theater came into being. Stage right wing space was increased by 300 percent, a large area for costume production and storage was created and the lobby and concessions doubled in size. The street side façade was also greatly improved and a space for college theater instruction was added.
That original dream included retrofitting the building on the north side of the WYO, known most recently as “The Hallmark” as soon as it was reasonable. After the generous gifting of the building to the college by the Whitney Benefits board, the WYO board and Sheridan College, along with the city, sought a major grant from the Wyoming Business Council. With that award, the final phase of the WYO Theater’s expansion and improvement project began. The building shell is being restored through this generous grant. The exterior restoration includes several new entry points, and a return to a façade in keeping with its origins.
The majority of interior changes allowed for in the grant are on the first floor. Those improvements will include expanding the lobby across the front of all three buildings, a new box office and coat check room, a dance studio, expanded wing space stage left, green room and an elevator to access all three floors.
In mid-June the windows on the east side of the building will be installed, closing the south bound lane on Main Street as well as sidewalk access in front of the theater for a little less than a week. Also this summer, the WYO box office operations will be moved from the current location to the Mars lobby, allowing for demolition and reconstruction of the lobby expansion and a new grand staircase. The WYO stage will be closed as expansion of the stage left wing space into the “Hallmark” is undertaken. The Mars lobby will remain open and events will be held in the Mars Theater throughout the summer including the eighth summer of the WYO’s New Vaudevillians. The renovated lobby and stage will be ready for the opening concert of the WYO’s 2017-2018 season — Steve Lippia’s Simply Sinatra on Sept. 19.
Additional funding will be necessary to finish the interiors of the second and third floors, which will house WYO Theater offices, college classroom space, rehearsal and event space and studio space. The WYO board of directors, in partnership with the Sheridan College Foundation board, have begun the process of securing the funding that will allow for continuation of the project. In addition, we are in the planning phases of a public campaign that will allow us to bring the entire project to its completion through the broad support of the Sheridan community.
Erin Butler is the executive director of the WYO Theater.