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Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre Fine Arts Center opens

December 31, 2018
Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre President Scott Eberle gives a speech during an event to honor the major donors to the organization's new Fine Arts Center, which opened on Saturday. The first performance will be tonight.

Beaver Dam’s new theater is ready for its first act.

The Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre’s Fine Arts Center at 117 W. Maple Ave. downtown opened on Saturday with an event honoring major donors and an open house for the public to tour the building. BDACT bought the old St. Patrick School for $125,000 from St. Katharine Drexel Parish in 2014 and then transformed the school into a fine arts center, at a final cost of $2.9 million.

“In terms of what it means for the community, priceless,” BDACT President Scott Eberle said. “This is truly a community theater.”

Community members and those associated with BDACT were milling about Saturday, excited to see the new center up close. Most of the fine arts center was available to tour, including the control deck above the auditorium and the upper floors that will be used for office space and prop rooms. There’ still some work to be done on the upper floors, but the wing where the public will be to see performances is complete.

The main 350-seat auditorium is named after Jerry and Annette Kamps, and the main wing is named after John McKinstry, honoring three of the founding members of BDACT over a half-century ago. Annette Kamps was the fund drive co-chairwoman and McKinstry was honored on Saturday for his donation of over $250,000. Jerry Kamps died in 2015 after many years of service to BDACT.

“Here we are, 54 years later, in this beautiful theater, thanks to hundreds, thousands of hours of blood, sweat, tears and laughter,” McKinstry said. “I am so happy I was blessed being part of this magical journey, which included the strong bond of friendship with Annette and Jerry Kamps.”

The center also has a separate performance area, meeting and rehearsal rooms, classrooms and more to make the facility into a full community space. Different performers were offering small shows throughout the center as the public toured.

Beaver Dam Mayor Becky Glewen stressed the importance of the fine arts center’s place in the community and the opportunities it will provide.

“That’s truly a heartstring for me,” Glewen said. “Sometimes it feels like we’re on this path, and sometimes it might feel a little slow, and we might veer off it here and there and it took a while for us to get to this point with many detours along the way. But one thing that we can keep in mind is that we’re always moving forward, and more than ever there’s a community here that we’re working together to move forward, and it’s exciting for Beaver Dam to lead, and to see those people stepping up so that we are leaders here.”

BDACT leadership had explored many options to expand out of its old space, the First Baptist Church at 219 N. Spring St., over the years, including moving into the mall or the old Pick ’N Save, or even building a new facility. About 10 years ago, the original plan was to fundraise to renovate and add an extension. However, when the possibility of moving into the school on Maple Avenue arose, BDACT changed course. Demolition work on the old school began in 2017. The opening date for the fine arts center was pushed back earlier this year due to construction delays.

The first show in the new Fine Arts Center will be a New Year’s Eve performance by the Loco Vocals at 9 p.m. Box office hours start in January on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and those who could not make the open house on Saturday can call or stop in to schedule a tour.

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