Fine Arts Center opens Saturday in Beaver Dam

December 27, 2018

After a 54-year journey, the curtain is ready to open on Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre’s next act. The grand opening of the BDACT Fine Arts Center in downtown Beaver Dam will take place Saturday.

According to founding member Annette Kamps, the nearly $3 million center is quite a change from the theater troupe’s beginnings.

“Our first show was in 1964 and we had no bank account,” she said. “We charged everything on faith that we would sell tickets and everybody let us do it. The businesses have generously supported us all these years.”

The nonprofit organization staged productions at the Wisconsin movie theater in downtown Beaver Dam through the late 1960s. When the movie theater could no longer accommodate the group, they became a roving troupe. Shows were put on at Dreger’s Village Square, Beaver Dam Junior High School, Wayland Academy, Wilson School, the Beaver Dam Mall and other temporary venues.

Nearly two decades after its incorporation, the community theater purchased the First Baptist Church on North Spring Street in Beaver Dam.

BDACT’s growth continued and space and accessibility became an issue. In 2006, after 23 years of successful shows and events in the Spring Street building, the organization’s board began investigating new options.

A major fundraising campaign began and in 2014, the former St. Patrick School on West Maple Avenue was purchased by BDACT. Demolition work started in the summer of 2017, followed by a full remodel.

The BDACT Fine Arts Center boasts a new scene shop, elevator and entrance. A 350-seat state-of-the-art auditorium is now in place where the school gymnasium once was. A main lobby, restrooms, a large community/performance area, meeting rooms, rehearsal rooms and classrooms round out the space.

“It’s been a long road to get to this point,” BDACT Secretary Jeff Rehberg said. “It’s unique for a city of this size to have its own theater, especially one of this caliber.”

Rehberg said he hopes the public comes to the open house Saturday to see what’s new and exciting.

“There will be location hosts on each floor during the open house. As people are walking about, they will tell specific information about the transformation as well as the use of different areas, what it used to be when it was a school and how it’s been changed,” he said.

BDACT Managing Director David Saniter said the center’s grand opening will include refreshments as well as small ensemble groups entertaining throughout the building.

“If someone is not able to make it to the open house, we are going to start having box office hours in January on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and if they call or stop in they can sign up for a tour,” he said.

Kamps said she is ready for the move and that Saturday’s program will focus on expressing appreciation.

“We’re thankful not just to the contributors but to all the support from the community through all 54 years,” she said. “How did we ever get here? It’s because of the continuing support, not only of the talents but patronage and volunteering. BDACT will continue to be a strong, viable organization.”

The first performance in the new Fine Arts Center is just days away. Loco Vocals will present a New Year’s Eve concert in the auditorium starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are on sale at bdact.org.

Update hourly