- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (AP) - The District Theatre is starting to renovate 5,000 square feet of the Rock Island Argus building for its new home.

The building owner, Realtor Thad DenHartog, will do a majority of the $100,000-plus in structural renovations to add walls, restrooms and restored flooring, with the 7-year-old nonprofit theater responsible for raising about $15,000, artistic director Tristan Tapscott said.

Mr. DenHartog, who represents Argus Building LLC, bought the 1925 two-story building in late 2009 from the Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.

The District has raised $2,380 through an online Indiegogo campaign, whose deadline was May 25, but fundraising likely will continue beyond that, Mr. Tapscott said. The following work is expected to be done in time for the District’s soft opening June 26, with “A Few Good Men”:

— A raked seating platform that will seat 100 people comfortably.

— Walls to create wings on the stage (25 feet wide and 16 feet deep) and hold lighting and sound instruments, as well as a wall across the back of the stage to hold lighting.

— Rooms for props storage, costume storage, tools and building materials.

— A box office, tech booth and computer system.

— Paint and decor to match the Italian Renaissance style of the interior.

— Sound equipment, including microphones, speakers and sound board.

— Shelves for storage and dressing rooms

— Curtains for the large windows.

— Banners and signage for windows and outside the building.

The District’s Indiegogo campaign is at indiegogo.com/projects/the-district-theatre.

Since its 2008 founding as Harrison Hilltop Theatre, the company has “survived a slum lord and a musty, old bank building; a rebranding; a very tiring and strenuous move across the river; a small ‘two car garage’ temporary space; a major financial crisis that left us with some serious debt; the rise and fall of a not-for-profit not unlike the story of ‘Social Network’ albeit on a smaller scale; small scandals on the local and national level; the rumor mill, which will be churning for years to come; battles with an owner’s group who ‘don’t support the arts’; some major changes in the administration; and over 40 productions ranging from ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ to ‘Sweeney Todd’ to ‘Rent,’ not to mention six years of ‘The Rocky Horror Show,’” the website says.

The District operated at the former Brew & View from June 2011 to last August, when it opened at the former Grape Life space. Leasing the front ground-floor space at the historic Argus building will be almost quadruple its last space, Mr. Tapscott said.

The remainder of the downtown building will be converted to apartments, with the help of Development Association of Rock Island.

“It’s kind of like going from a two-car garage into a mansion,” Mr. Tapscott has said. “We’ve been around for seven years, so it’s time that we found something permanent. We have an incredible group of artists who are professionals, who deserve a better place to play than some small little room,” he said. “Not that the little rooms haven’t treated us nicely.”

Harrison Hilltop, which operated in a former bank in Davenport, and the last District space have averaged 30 to 40 seats, while the troupe’s first Rock Island space averaged 50 to 60 seats, Mr. Tapscott said. The new space will allow them to bring back couches on the floor for patrons, which have been requested, he said.

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Source: The (Moline) Dispatch, https://bit.ly/1FuFo49

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Information from: The Rock Island Argus, https://www.qconline.com/index.shtml

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