Dimmable side-lighting for the aisles during performances along with the new safety exit signs are just a couple of the updates that were possible at Ye Olde Opera House thanks to a grant. PHOTO: MARLENE DESCHLER/ SPRING GROVE HERALD
Dimmable side-lighting for the aisles during performances along with the new safety exit signs are just a couple of the updates that were possible at Ye Olde Opera House thanks to a grant. PHOTO: MARLENE DESCHLER/ SPRING GROVE HERALD
Musicals, plays, one-acts, dessert theater, children's plays and more have made the Ye Olde Opera House (YOOH) on Main Street in Spring Grove an active place. Lighting is an essential part of theatrical performances. Recently, YOOH updated its lighting along with other electrical updates through the help of a grant.

The grant writer through SAGE (Spring Grove Area Grant Endeavor) along with assistance from YOOH president Scott Solberg and YOOH board member Lee Hoekstra wrote a grant through the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council with the goal of improving safety for the audience and the actors.

"All of the grant money was used for electrical updates," explained Sarah Schroeder, YOOH board member. "We spent $3,000 and the grant matched that with $3,000. We now have lights permanently wired instead of having many orange extension cords powering various lights."

Other electrical improvements include lighting along the walls where the aisles are during a performance. These lights are dimmable making it safer for audience members to see if they need to leave their seats during a performance. Safety exit lights were also added that have an emergency light on them that will come on in the event that there is a power outage. Old ceiling fans were also removed from the building since they hadn't been used since the air conditioning was installed several years ago.

A new breaker box was also installed along with outlets in the ceiling for theatrical lighting. Rehearsal lighting was added to the ceiling of the stage. "Running the theatrical lighting all of the time during rehearsal wasn't very efficient," said Schroeder. "Now that we have rehearsal lighting, the cast can more easily read their scripts and it is also more energy efficient."

"We had been talking about doing these updates and wanting to do them for the last 10 years; this grant made it possible for us to do them," added Schroeder.

Other recent updates to the opera house (not from the grant money) include repainting of the floor and painting of the exterior of the building which is yet to be completed. They also plan to add new signage.

With the alley to the east of the building now closed to traffic, the opera house plans on making the side door entrance wheelchair accessible. They will be raising the door to make it level with the inside floor and adding a small deck with stairs on one side and a ramp on the other side. This improvement is not part of the grant, but part of the plans for future improvements.

The revealing of all of the electrical and painting improvements will be during the children's production of "Charlotte's Web" in August. If anyone is interested in volunteering for the children's play or for the summer musical at Ye Olde Gray Barn, they can contact Schroeder at sarah@springgrove.coop.