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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Ted Paul Theatre Gets $500,000 Facelift

"The Music Man" opens the 2018-18 Mainstage season.

2018-09-25
Robb Murray, Mankato Free Press, 9-20-2018

As usual, Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Department of Theatre and Dance has tons of great stuff on tap for the 2018-19 season.

But one of the biggest attractions of the season might be what has happened off the stage rather than on it.

The Ted Paul Theatre in Minnesota State Mankato’s Earley Center for Performing Arts was built in 1967. And while they’ve installed new carpeting and replaced seats over the years, the venerable theater had never gotten an overhaul — you know, the kind where they rip everything out and, basically, start from scratch.

That all changed over the summer when the department spent a half million dollars to give the Ted Paul the facelift it deserved. There are new seats, new lighting, new carpet, better and expanded access for wheelchairs and new sound equipment, among other things.

“I’ve been here 33 years,” department chair Paul Hustoles says of funding the renovation. “And I’ve been saving for 33 years.”

Hustoles said the usual lifespan of a theater is about 30 years, so the renovation was long overdue.

It’s also just in time: the university is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year. Hustoles said he thought the venue’s facelift was akin to putting on its “birthday clothes” for the university’s 150th birthday.

When the season launched a few weeks ago, the renovation wasn’t complete; the first show, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” took the stage in the Andreas Theatre. Next week, “The Music Man” will usher in the Ted Paul’s new era, an era with larger, more comfortable seats and a fancy new stage curtain.

“The Music Man” seems a fitting show with which to christen the fresh space.

The musical comedy follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band that he vows to organize — this, despite the fact that he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian, the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen by curtain’s fall.

“The Music Man,” Hustoles says, involves a huge cast. There are more than 60 members, making it one of the largest casts he’s ever worked with.

And while Hustoles doesn’t like to repeat shows too often (their unofficial rule is to never do a show more than three times), this will be the fourth time the department is doing “The Music Man” — the most of any production in his tenure at Minnesota State Mankato.

(Fun fact: The year “The Music Man” won the Tony Award, it beat out a show that got very mixed reviews on Broadway called “West Side Story.”) Hustoles said they chose “The Music Man” because it is upbeat and fitting for the university’s birthday.

“We were looking for something that would be bright and cheery and good for a birthday party,” he said, “and ‘Music Man’ is all of that.”

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at www.mankatofreepress.com.

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