Generous Gift Secures Naming Rights For New Theater!

Generous gift secures naming rights for new theater

Sitting down to talk about the gift are, from left: Ben Ratkowski, Lakeshore Players Artistic Director; Kari Bullion, president of Children’s Performing Arts; Sharon Hanifl-Lee, CPA board member and foundation director; Rob Thomas, Lakeshore Players Managing Director.

Debra Neutkens | Press Publications

WHITE BEAR LAKE — Lakeshore Players Theatre will have a new moniker on its soon-to-be-constructed performing arts center.

A $2.75 million gift from a Chicago-based foundation has secured naming rights to the new theater planned for the city’s Arts District. The marquee will display the name “Hanifl Performing Arts Center” with “Home of Lakeshore Players Theatre and Children’s Performing Arts” in smaller letters underneath.

Paul Hanifl, a vice president of business development for a Chicago health care manufacturing company, and his wife, Suzanne Hanifl, started the foundation about 20 years ago. Their daughter, Sharon Hanifl-Lee, is a Hugo resident and board member of the Children’s Performing Arts Center (CPA), a nonprofit currently based in Forest Lake.

The name may ring a bell for area residents who have attended youth soccer and lacrosse games at Hanifl Fields in Hugo. The park was named for the family after the foundation awarded $500,000 to Hugo for a park shelter and athletic fields in 2010.

Hanifl-Lee said the foundation’s mission is to support communities through programs promoting environmental awareness, conservation, education, the arts and sciences, health and physical fitness.

“My parents have been blessed with success,” noted Hanifl-Lee, foundation vice president, “and we feel this success should be shared with the community.”

Her involvement with the CPA and seeing its impact on youth led to Hanifl-Lee’s endorsement of the foundation grant. Her children have all been involved in the Forest Lake performing arts center and the mother of three feels theater is a “life-changing, positive force in their lives.”

“Everything the foundation does is very personal,” she added. “It relates to us in some way.”

Her seventh-grade daughter Maddox, for example, dreams of being on Broadway. “She is a vivacious, outgoing person who loves being on stage,” said Hanifl-Lee. “I called around looking for a theater and someone from CPA called me back. They were doing ‘Jungle Book’ that year. We signed her up.”

That introduction eventually led to Hanifl-Lee joining the CPA board of directors and helping the program grow. Her children attend the Lakes International Language Academy in Forest Lake.

“The CPA is an incredible program to be part of,” she said. “It gives the kids so much confidence; they feel so good about themselves. I get goosebumps talking about it.”

A portion of the foundation’s grant, $1 million, has a matching component — “to re-energize the base,” noted Rob Thomas, Lakeshore Players’ managing director.

He recalled a recent conversation with a local banker who commented on how strange it is for a project this size to proceed with this type of funding. “It’s pretty much all private,” Thomas said. To date, Lakeshore has received about $8 million in cash and pledges.

That support made an impression on the Hanifl family. “We saw how Lakeshore Players impacts the community and how the community has embraced Lakeshore Players. People here really support the performing arts,” said Hanifl-Lee. “This is the kind of thing we want to help with, to get involved with, and we are super excited to do that.”

A final monetary goal is still being calculated as construction plans are finalized and bids come in. The original $6.2 million goal has grown now that the CPA is involved.

The building has expanded from 17,000 to 21,500 square feet, with the CPA occupying 4,100 square feet of that space for its programming.

A groundbreaking date has not been set, other than it will be sometime this summer. A Minneapolis contractor has been selected, Engelsma, and they have started working with the architects on development of the construction drawings.

Thomas said the missions of the two theaters are complementary and Lakeshore is “elated” over the partnership, an arrangement he called “serendipitous.”

“The performing arts center will be the premier destination for theater and performing arts education in the northeast metro region,” he added.

Ben Ratkowski, Lakeshore’s artistic director, pointed out: “We’ve been planning this building since 2013. We are very close to breaking ground and creating this great collaboration. It’s fabulous.”

Lakeshore Players Announces our 65th Season!

Lakeshore Players Announces our 65th Season!

Lakeshore Players Theatre, one of Minnesota’s oldest and longest running theaters, is happy to announce our upcoming slate of shows for our 65th season. With a lineup that includes popular musicals like The Wizard of Oz and Into The Woods, the classic American story The Great Gatsby, the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Rabbit Hole, the quick-changing, hilarious, Gothic thriller romp The Mystery of Irma Vep, and the Steve Martin farce, The Underpants, Lakeshore Players has a little bit of something for everyone.
New this season is the Active Voice: Staged Reading Series. Readings of four different shows will be held throughout the season with a chance for the audience to provide feedback and discussion.
Here is the complete list with performance dates:

The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum/adapted by John Kane
September 14-October 1, 2017

The Mystery of Irma Vep, by Charles Ludlam
October 26-November 12, 2017

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald/Adapted by Simon Levy
December 7-17, 2017

The Underpants, by Steve Martin/Adapted from Carl Sternheim
January 18-February 4, 2018

Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire
March 1-25, 2018

Into The Woods, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
April 26-May 20, 2018

The 14th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival
May 31-June 10, 2018

Active Voice: Staged Reading Series:
Topdog/Underdog, by Suzan-Lori Parks
November 4 and 6, 2017
The Birthday Party, by Harold Pinter
January 27 and 29, 2018
Angels in America: The Millennium Approaches
March 10 and 12, 2018
An Original Play, to be determined
May 12 and 14, 2018

Lakeshore Players Announces Collaboration with Children’s Performing Arts (Forest Lake)

Lakeshore Board President Mike Spellman (top left), Managing Director Rob Thomas (top right), Artistic Director Ben Ratkowski (bottom left), CPA President Kari Bullion (bottom right). Photo cred: White Bear Press


We are pleased to announce an exciting collaboration between Lakeshore Players and Children’s Performing Arts (CPA), a theatre education and youth development organization based in Forest Lake. In our new performing art center, Lakeshore & CPA will continue to operate independently but have the opportunity to co-produce theatre for young audiences. Here are some highlights from the March 1 interview in the White Bear Press:

  • The draft architect’s drawing for the new Lakeshore Players’ performing art center includes rehearsal and operation space for the Children’s Performing Arts group.
  • A date for groundbreaking is yet to be determined. The Facilities Committee is working hard to begin site work this summer.
  • Lakeshore announced a leadership structure change in its executive-level positions.

Stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks about this collaboration which will allow our two organizations to serve even more more youth and families.

Thank you for your support of the performing arts in our community!


Rob Thomas, Managing Director



Save The Date – 2/24/17 Lakeshore’s Annual Fundraiser


Join us for a fabulous evening to raise $40,000 to benefit Lakeshore Players’ annual theatre arts and education activities! Your generous donations are how we are able to continue to provide and expand our diverse season of Main Stage productions, outreach performances, and year-round education for all ages.

  • WhenFriday, February 24, 2017
  • WhereVadnais Heights Commons
  • Tickets on sale now. Click here.
    • Tables seat 8, so get your group together now!
  • Delicious gourmet dinner catered by Lake Elmo Inn
  • Live & silent auctions
  • Live entertainment

Our sincere thanks to everyone who supports our mission to provide community enrichment and education through the performing arts.

Can’t attend but want to donate? Click here!




Grassroots Photos


A huge thank you to everyone who came out last Saturday to our Grassroots Celebration! We were thrilled to put on this free event to introduce the community to the Future Home of Lakeshore Players. The event was a great success, we estimate almost 500 people in attendance! If you had the pleasure of stopping by our photo booth, please find all of the pictures here! Below are a few of our favorites.

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Lakeshore Players Board of Directors Announces Leadership Reorganization

Lakeshore Players Theatre, a premier performing arts center located in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, announces that Joan Elwell will leave the organization effective today. We appreciate the work Joan has done for Lakeshore Players and thank her for her many contributions over the past 13 years. We wish Joan the best in her future endeavors.

Beginning September 20th, Renae Oswald-Anderson, Partner with Strategic Consulting & Coaching, will serve as Interim Executive Director. Renae brings 27 years of leadership and management in the non-profit sector. She most recently served as the interim Executive Director for the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf, is an adjunct faculty member at Century College, and lives in Stillwater. Lakeshore’s Board of Directors will begin a search for a new Executive Director and will announce information about the search at a later date.

The excellence of programming at Lakeshore Players Theatre will remain ongoing. Lakeshore Players’ exciting 64th season, led by Artistic Director Ben Ratkowski, offers a full season of main stage shows, new and increased arts education programming for all ages, and theatre outreach opportunities. Lakeshore’s Board of Directors will continue to implement its strategic plan which includes finishing a successful capital campaign to build a new performing arts center.

About Lakeshore Players Theatre
Founded in 1953, Lakeshore Players’ mission is to provide community education and enrichment opportunities through the performing arts. Please join us at the theater for our 2016-17 Season. Visit our website for more details:

2016 – 17 Season:
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure
Miss Nelson is Missing
The Happy Elf
All in the Timing
The Tempest
Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet
Happy Days
13th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival

Wondering What Music was on the Program at Dr. Reid Smith’s Studio?

Look no further!

Click to view the printed program, listing the musical selections played by Dr. Smith’s award-winning students.

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Lakeshore Players hosts several “house parties” throughout the year to build awareness and support for the Light The Stage! Capital Campaign.

A Grassroots Celebration!


Join us this fall for a fun, free, and family-friendly event at the future Long Avenue home of Lakeshore Players! Come and experience the new site, enjoy music by The Barley Jacks and Brother Mule, play fun theatre games, and snack on some delicious treats.

We are approximately 72% of the way to the fundraising goal for our new community performing arts center and are thrilled to take the next steps in making this dream a reality. The current site has been demolished this summer and plans are underway for construction next year. We are hoping to open the 2018-19 season in the new building, so it’s an exciting time for our community!

The Grassroots Celebration will feature entertainment provided by the award-winning bluegrass band The Barley Jacks, Brother Mule and “Lady Bear” a giant polar bear puppet created by local artist Kimberly Ford. Enjoy delectable Grandma’s Bakery cupcakes and smooth & creamy Jonny Pops.

Fun theatre games will be provided by Lakeshore Players and guests are encouraged to come in costume for extra fun and prizes! You will also have the opportunity to purchase naming rights to a seat in the new theatre.

This fun and free event will take place on September 17 from 2-5pm at the new site: 4941 Long Avenue, White Bear Lake, MN 55110, next to White Bear Center for the Arts.

There is plenty of free street parking available or you can park a few blocks away at the White Bear Lake District Center (4855 Bloom Ave, White Bear Lake) or the White Bear Lake Area High School – North Campus (5045 Division Ave, White Bear Lake) and take a free shuttle to the site! Disability parking is available next door at White Bear Center for the Arts.

Questions? Call our Capital Campaign office at 651-429-2316.

Special thanks to Silas & Vicki Ford, White Bear Press, and Explore White Bear.

Announcing Lakeshore’s 64th Season!

Lakeshore Players Theatre is proud to announce the shows for their 2016-2017 Season. The shows range from comedies, to mysteries, musicals and the wildy popular 10-Minute Play Festival. See the list of shows below and stay tuned to the Lakeshore Players Theatre website ( for details on season tickets, auditions, and more!

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure

(Sept 8-25, 2016)


The world’s greatest detective and his trusted companion try to crack one last case as Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure pits Sherlock against his ultimate adversary—Professor Moriarty. Steven Dietz’s fast-paced adaptation is a swift adventure of intrigue, wit, humor, danger and surprise.




Miss Nelson is Missing

(Oct 13-23, 2016)


In this funny adaptation of Miss Nelson is Missing, a teacher mysteriously disappears and her classroom of kids are up against the evil substitute, Viola Swamp! These students will do whatever it takes – including hiring a private investigator – to find Miss Nelson!



The Happy Elf

(Dec 1-18, 2016)


Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Harry Connick Jr. brings us the tale of Eubie the Elf. The Happy Elf is on a mission to spread Christmas cheer everywhere he goes, including Bluesville – a town on Santa’s naughty list… and now, Lakeshore!



All in the Timing

(Jan 19-Feb 5, 2017)


If you like our annual Ten Minute Play Festival, you will love All in the Timing by David Ives. This collection of six short comedies is a light-hearted exploration of language, life, meaning, and the pratfalls of romance.

“Theatre that aerobicizes the brain and tickles the heart. Ives puts the ‘play’ back in playwright.”
—Time Magazine




The Tempest

(March 8-26, 2017)


This Shakespearean classic whips up a whirlwind of excitement as we whisk you away to a remote island for a tale of trickery, romance, magic, and revenge. From the spectacular storm that opens the play, to mystical island creatures, The Tempest is equal parts moving fairy tale, marvelous magic show, and Shakespeare’s fond farewell to the stage.




Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet

(March 9-24, 2017)


In the award winning modern play by Ann-Marie MacDonald, Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet has a young English professor named Constance proposing a radical new theory—Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies were meant to be comedies! Constance cleverly reimagines the classic plays, discovers the truth, and makes you laugh.




Happy Days, A New Musical

(Apr 20-May 14, 2017)


A musical based on the hit television series, Happy Days brings you back to the days of 1959 Milwaukee complete with varsity sweaters, hula hoops and jukebox sock-hoppin’ fun!

“If you like Grease you will love Happy Days!”
—New York Daily News




13th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival

(June 1-11, 2017)


Each year, Lakeshore Players’ highly regarded ten-minute play writing contest attracts entries from around the world as both novice and published writers enter new works. The ten best plays are selected for their world premieres. At our 13th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival, you can see what all the fun is about as directors and actors from across the Twin Cities debut the selected works on the Lakeshore stage.

A Look into the Lives of Two Fabulous Capital Campaign Supporters

Ginny Leutgeb’s Original Play Wins Lakeshore’s Annual Contest!


Ginny Leutgeb (right) in Everybody Loves Opal, 2013

Last fall, 292 novice and published writers from around the world entered Lakeshore’s 12th annual ten-minute play writing contest. Our dedicated play reading committee reviewed each submission and selected the ten best original plays from the contest for their world premieres on the Lakeshore stage.

The playwright’s identities are not revealed until the very end, and we were all thrilled to discover that longtime Lakeshore artist and Capital Campaign Committee Member, Ginny Leutgeb’s play “Whodunit 101” was among the winners! Come see Ginny’s play, and the other nine winners at the 12th Annual Ten Minute Play Festival, held two weekends only, June 2-12.

Why join us? To quote a line from one of our first Festival plays, because “It’s FUN!”


Dr. Reid Smith’s Beautiful Certified Wildlife Garden Featured in Star Tribune


Dr. Reid Smith in his home gardens in Dellwood

Birds of many species feel right at home nesting in the wetlands and woodlands of Lakeshore friend Reid Smith and LaWayne Leno. They have transformed their Dellwood yard into a wildlife sanctuary—a paradise of blooms and habitat — and one of the Star Tribune’s Beautiful Gardens winners. You can read all about it in a recent article here.

We plan to hold a donor cultivation event in their beautiful home this summer and look forward to enjoying the garden first hand. More details to come!