The stage at Memorial Park Gazebo is nearing completion for Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Theatre this week for the group’s first outdoor play.
The play is a huge endeavor for the community theatre group, one of the first outdoor shows they have attempted, and has required a lot of logistics to be in place – liquor licenses approved, work with a local vendor for outdoor dining, building permits and inspections for the stage that’s being constructed.
For Dan Campagna, producer and board member with the MVLCT, however, the idea for holding an outdoor show was something he came up with at a visit to Memorial Park after moving back to the town in 2019.
“My mother lives on the north side of Memorial Park, so seeing that gazebo and the ampitheater silhouetted in the setting sun just gave a great visual of staging a play here in the future,” Campagna said. “It’s a beautiful park and place, especially with the work that has been done to the amphitheater seating over the past several years.”
Campagna visualized this as a community event, and work started on the idea back in the spring about this show becoming a reality.
One of the biggest challenges has been the upfront costs of building an outdoor stage for the first time.
The organization has raised more than $7,000 in donations from a Facebook fundraiser asking for that help, as well as the Riniker lemonade stand fundraiser and contributions from the Mount Vernon Area Arts Council and material support from area businesses with items like paint and supplies needed to construct the stage.
“It’s been incredible the level of support we’ve had,” Campagna said. “Those start-up costs to build this stage were one of our biggest hurdles, and moving forward, we’re not going to need the same level of permits and expenses for future outdoor shows, as we’ll have this stage we can bring back for future shows.”
The audience will need to be ready for outdoor viewing. Wind, bugs, heat – those are all things out of the theatre group’s control. Torrential rain with lightning and thunder will most likely mean cancellation of a show, so Campagna is hoping the community can send good vibes for the show’s four nights over two weeks.
“Our second weekend also happens the same weekend as the Iowa/Iowa State game,” Campagna said.
Morning Glory Farm partnered with the MVLCT to make it dinner theater.
“We have wanted this show to be a community event,” Campagna said. “That’s always been important to us as a theatre group as well.”
The shows were also staged to be overlapping with the Lincoln Highway Arts Festival for one of the weekends, to offer an additional reason for people to make a trek to Mount Vernon for a weekend getaway.
“That festival is mostly in the morning, and this show will be held in the evening,” Campagna said.