Playhouse storage

Playhouse in the Park intern Laurel Johnston, left, and Executive Director Lisa Cope gesture during a conversation about how finding more room for events with the program has been difficult. That may change if PIP can raise enough funds to purchase a building on Arcadia Circle where costumes have been stored the past year.

MURRAY — Unless someone is a frequent visitor to the Playhouse in the Park facility in the rear of Murray’s Central Park, understanding the strong enthusiasm behind today’s forthcoming announcement of a capital campaign to help finance the purchase of a building on Arcadia Circle may be difficult. 

Talk to Executive Director Lisa Cope or PIP Board President Judi Little, and it becomes obvious that the building is seen by people within the PIP circle as massive for the future of the program. 

“It’s life changing,” Little said. The campaign will finance the payoff of a loan The Murray Bank approved Thursday that allowed for the purchase of a 6,000-square-foot building at 907 Arcadia Circle that formerly housed the Holland Medical business. TMB has been PIP’s title sponsor the past few years. 

The building, which is already being used to store PIP costumes and props, is being eyed as something that could significantly ease space restrictions at the current facility in Central. 

“This is so much bigger than adding education space and storage space. We can expand into programs we have dreamed about and look at other opportunities we can give the community,” Little added. 

It would not have taken long to feel the sense of anticipation coming from Cope, who has been with PIP since 2009. Frequently, she would break into a wide grin Thursday as she discussed what the purchase of the building will mean for the program.

“Good stuff is coming. That’s how we feel about this. For a long time, we’ve needed space and this building is going to be everything we need it to be,” Cope said, strongly emphasizing that the current PIP facility in Central will continue to function as the main venue for the program. “We are not moving. We are not leaving this theater. We love this space and we’re not doing this because we don’t love this space. We do. We want to be very clear about that; this is an “addition to” thing.”

“There is going to be space for a small black box theater so we can do performances there. We’re going to have classroom space, rehearsal space. Now we’re going to have space for our costumers; for a long time, they’ve needed space for their sewing machines and to be able to keep them (in the same place). They can’t do that (at Central).

“We are literally on top of each other here and people don’t understand that until they’re actually here. I hear people all of the time say, ‘Oh my! You need space!’”

It goes further than that, though. Cope said the Arcadia building is going to eliminate a problem that has plagued PIP ever since she arrived – scheduling. She said there are numerous times when performers of one show who want to rehearse in, say, the main theater, find this venue not usable because another production is using it, or set designers need the space to do their work. 

Even the green room at the venue is often not available. Laurel Johnston, who has been with PIP for five years and has been part of the youth program Box of Frogs in that time, gave a first-hand account of what it is like to find no space available at a time a rehearsal is needed. 

“There have been so many times I’ve been in rehearsals for a Box of Frogs show and I also happen to be in a season show at the same time and we’re told, ‘Well, we can’t do Box of Frogs rehearsal today because so-and-so has the theater and so-and-so has the green room and we have auditions over here. So you guys are going to have to go out on the deck or you’ll have to reschedule and do it another day,’’ Johnston said. “That’s dangerous, because it has splinters and mess that you don’t need to be dancing on.

“Now, we’re not going to have to move things around. You’re going to be able to have your own area, knowing you have your own place to go. We have so many ideas too, and we haven’t had a place to put them.”

Cope said some of these ideas include adult workshops, which is something about which numerous people have asked her about PIP hosting. Cope also said this would help after-school programs, which have also suffered from scheduling issues, to not be interrupted. In addition, events such as the annual Summer Camp that is concluding today at Central can move to Arcadia and be conducted in air-conditioned comfort. There also has been an idea circulated of a teen camp.

“It’s just been a matter of people asking, ‘When are we going to do it? When are we going to do it?’ Now a lot of ideas are going to come to fruition here that are just going to be mind-blowing,” said Johnston, who is starting her freshman year at Western Kentucky University in a few weeks. “I’ll have to come back from college to see it all. It’s been building and building, and now it’s here.”

Cope said the official announcement of the campaign will come tonight during the first performance of “Aladdin Kids,” which features the 100 children between ages 6-12 who participated in this year’s PIP Summer Camp. The campaign is being designed as something that will help to pay off the TMB loan quickly, allowing PIP to move ahead with plans for the Arcadia building. 

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