Lancaster Gets New Contemporary Theater

Forbes recently named Lancaster, Pennsylvania one of the top ten coolest places to visit in the United States. The rich architecture and bustling food scene have contributed to its recent national attention. The team at Prima, A Contemporary Theatre organization in Lancaster, saw there was still more progress to be made. With the belief that a city this dynamic deserves a cultural scene that suits its growing vibrancy, Prima's Executive Artistic Producer, Mitch Nugent, set out to create a new home for fresh theatrical experiences in Lancaster.

"It has always been about sharing exciting music and stories." says Mitch Nugent. "This community has been open and interested in theatrical programming worth talking about. We've learned a lot, evolved a bit, but continue to be laser-focused on doing engaging work that invigorates lives." Prima has been a game-changer in the cultural scene of the Susquehanna Valley. The organization has brought Broadway legends to the blossoming city, and integrated local and professional performers from across the United States into their concerts, boutique musicals, and special events. Notable Broadway guest artists include Stephen Schwartz, Billy Porter, Jason Robert Brown, Shoshana Bean, and Adam Pascal. Productions have included Chess, Aida, Big Fish, Children of Eden, First Date, and Tick Tick Boom.

"Prima is one of our community's best kept secrets" says Prima's Board President, Hunter Johnson. "It's time to launch this immense theatrical asset into a new era, putting Prima literally on the map." Since its genesis in 2010, Prima has performed at over a dozen venues across Lancaster County. Being nomadic has limited performance dates, consumed nearly one-third of the organization's annual budget, depleted nearly 40% of staff time, while also inconveniencing audiences.

To address this challenge, Carol Culliton of the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation, as well as the leaders at Sequinox, have made visionary investments towards Prima acquiring a home in the western part of Lancaster City. Formerly known as the Hamilton Ballroom, the new Prima venue (941 Wheatland Avenue) offers 125 free parking spaces with a 200-person capacity. The space will offer flexible seating and staging arrangements including in-the-round, thrust, and proscenium set-ups. With the design and construction leadership of TONO Group, Prima's new home is undergoing a transformation to become a contemporary destination for theatre, music, film, and special events. Prima will be situated for complete hospitality services with a full kitchen and bar. Illuminated Integration is installing state-of-the-art audio, video and lighting equipment. Total improvements include an initial investment of over half a million dollars.

Prima plans to offer multiple series of events, including MainStage and Altro (concert) Series, as well as musically-focused film. In addition to Prima programming, the venue will also be a unique venue for business and personal special events. With a grand opening concert production of Piano Men (December 7-15), Prima will begin offering more performance dates and variety in programming in a well-equipped venue.

In order to utilize this new community resource to its fullest potential, a 3-year 3.2 million dollar effort has begun called FWD, launching forward Lancaster's new home for the culturally adventurous. Impressively, nearly half of the funds to be raised (1.57 million) has been committed thus far for renovations, lease, and operational growth. Contributions are now being sought for investments in furthering the Prima experience for the Lancaster community. Gifts to FWD will expand artistic programming and support artists (including student internships and local performers). Prima launched the announcement of the new venue with a boisterous music video. That and more can be found at www.primaFWD.org.

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