Rangeley has long had a fantastic theater community. Now it has a great theater to match.
Rangeley Friends for the Arts (RFA) has completed the renovation of Lakeside Theater and invites everyone to visit their beautiful new home. The lobby shimmers with new chandeliers, new carpet, and a new concession stand. The auditorium has new aisle lights, new carpet, oak trim, and new wall coverings that have greatly improved the acoustics.
Final Step of Multi-Year Renovations
These upgrades are part of a multi-phase renovation that began when the RFA acquired Lakeside Theater in 2014. The building needed a long list of upgrades. RFA President Valerie Zapolsky says the first improvements were “all about function”:
- 2016: Converted the old movie projector room into a two-level space with a pit area below (which doubles as a classroom) and a lighting and sound booth above.
- 2018: Installed a digital movie projector, upgraded the sound system, and poured a cement basement to replace the old gravel basement, which often had standing water.
Zapolsky says 2020 it was “all about surfaces.” Over time, the busy and beloved theater had started to look worn, with threadbare carpets and broken aisle lights. The sound absorbing walls, originally intended for movie audiences, created poor acoustics for live shows.
With this sparkling new theater, Rangeley’s arts community finally has a home to match its talent and enthusiasm. Zapolsky says the improvements also will make it easier for the RFA to attract outside performers.
A final, future upgrade may be replacing the theater’s marquee with an electric marquee. “It’s not fun changing letters with your bare hands at the top of a ladder in 10 degrees with 30mph wind,” Zapolsky explains. She is quick to assure that it will be tasteful – “not Las Vegas”.
Zapolsky says the renovations have been made possible by grants, private donations, contributions from contractors and suppliers, and Rangeley’s many enthusiastic volunteers. The Davis Family Foundation has been particularly supportive, granting the RFA about $55,000 since 2014.
Responding to COVID 19
The COVID 19 pandemic has prevented the RFA from having a grand opening celebration, but the theater’s doors are open and visitors are welcome to stop by.
Zapolsky speaks of the current COVID 19 restrictions with resolve. State guidelines allow galleries to be open, so people can visit the theater’s lobby, which doubles as an art gallery.
Current State guidelines do not allow theaters to operate. The summer musical, Sweeny Todd, and several other live performances have been cancelled or postponed. This will impact the RFA’s finances. According to Zapolsky, one-third of their annual revenue usually comes from ticket sales and sponsorships connected to live performances. To compensate, they have launched a Together We Can Reach For Amazing fundraising campaign.
Zapolsky says the RFA stands ready to reopen its theater whenever it is safe and legal to do so. They have put together seating plans to safely distance audience members. It won’t be possible to regain the three months needed to produce a musical, but there is still time for plays and storytelling in late summer. The RFA will hold its annual street dance in July and the “Art in August” outdoor art show.
Join the RFA’s Community Art Project
In the meantime, the RFA is channeling its creativity outdoors. The “Together We Can Reach For Amazing” community art project will brighten the walkway beside the theater with 2’ x 2’ wood panels painted by community members. The theme is “happiness.” The installation will last from July through September. Zapolsky invites anyone who is interested to stop by the theater to register and pick up a panel.
The community art project is a fitting capstone to the renovations that have finally given Rangeley a theater that matches the artistic energy of this unique mountain village.