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

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

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.

Musicians Needed for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” Orchestra

Forum Slider

Lakeshore Players Theatre in White Bear Lake, MN is looking for talented musicians to join our orchestra for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opening in April. Information about rehearsals and performances are listed below. If interested, please contact Ben Ratkowski at 651-426-3275 or for details.


The dates of the performances (at LPT) are:
April 21, Thur (7:30 pm)
April 22, Fri (7:30 pm)
April 23, Sat (7:30 pm)
April 24, Sun (2:00 pm)
April 29, Fri (7:30 pm)
April 30, Sat (7:30 pm)
May 1, Sun (2:00 pm)
May 6, Fri (7:30 pm)
May 7, Sat (7:30 pm)
May 8, Sun (2:00 pm)
May 13, Fri (7:30 pm)
May 14, Sat (7:30 pm)
May 15, Sun (2:00 pm)

Rehearsals will be:
4/10, 2pm-4pm
4/14, 6pm-8pm
4/16, 2pm-4pm

Tech rehearsals the week of 4/17

Conductor: Ben Wegner

LPT Show Webpage:

Forum Full Synopsis and Song Samples:

MN Playlist Ad:

Dinosaurs and Robin Hood Storm the Lakeshore Stage!

By popular demand, Lakeshore’s annual Summer Youth Players have returned for their 25th year! This year’s programs draw on the blockbuster Magic Tree House book series for the SYP, Jr. musical, while a fractured courtroom farce about Robin Hood will fuel SYP, Lakeshore’s teen program.

Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark KIDS, dinosaursthe SYP, Jr. camp for students grades 2-7, will run Mondays through Fridays, June 13-24, with performances from June 24-26. This two-week camp will meet from 8:30 to 2:00 every day (including a break for bag lunches). SYP, Jr. veterans Janie Froiland, Bobby Ragoonanan, and Bre Thom will be returning as Director, Music Director, and Choreographer.

The Trials of Robin Hood, the SYP camp for students grades 6-12, RobinHoodDesign_colorruns Mondays through Fridays, July 5-22, with performances July 22-31. This three-week camp will meet from 9:00-12:00 every day, with an option to attend additional afternoon tech sessions from 12:30-3:30 that will give students an education in more than just acting, as they help to conceptualize and build the set, props, and costumes for the show. Aaron Fiskradatz will be returning as director for his fifth year.

Register now by clicking here!

Registrations are limited and these camps typically fill fast. Reserve your spot on stage today!


Slamming Doors, Falling Trousers, and Flying Sardines

Noises Off at Lakeshore Players Theatre February 25 – March 20


CAPTION: (L-R) Janice Murphy Roman, Taylor Evans, Lisa Shafer, and George M. Calger get caught in the act in Noises Off at Lakeshore Players Theatre Feb. 25-Mar. 20 (Photo submitted by: Vanessa Brooke Agnes)

Full of shocking surprises and raucous humor, Noises Off is celebrated as one of the funniest farces ever written.  And now, after millions of people worldwide enjoyed the smash hit, Noises Off comes to Lakeshore Players Theatre in White Bear Lake.

The idea for the play came when playwright Michael Frayn was standing in the wings watching a performance of a farce he wrote for Lynn Redgrave. Frayn said that the show with Redgrave was “funnier from backstage than in the audience” and wanted to write a farce that took place behind the scenes.

“Frayn filled Noises Off with sheer pandemonium,” says director Gorden Hedahl.

“There are slamming doors, falling trousers, and flying sardines—and that is just Act One,” adds actor George M. Calger.

“With unraveling love triangles, flubbed lines, and missed entrances these characters have personalities that are almost as big as the set,” says actress Lisa Shafer.

“And this set is huge. I’ve built some big sets in the last couple years, but this could be the biggest one ever at Lakeshore Players,” states Technical Director Beth Miller.

“All of the timing on stage and large technical elements means this is not an easy show. Luckily, we have an exceptional creative team and phenomenal cast that are making this one of the highlights of our 63rd season,” says Lakeshore’s Artistic Director Ben Ratkowski.

“It is also a highlight for us on stage. In all of my years performing, Noises Off is my second Lakeshore Players show and the first time being directed by Gorden [Hedahl].  It is an absolute blast and I know audiences will love it too,” says actress Tori Ruckle.

The cast of nine performers include George M. Calger (St. Paul) as Lloyd Dallas, Janice Murphy Roman (Forest Lake) as Dotty Otley,  Taylor Evans (Minneapolis) as Garry Lejeune, Lisa Shafer (Eagan) as Brooke Ashton, Bruce Bell-Myers (Stillwater) as Frederick Fellowes, Tori Ruckle (Minneapolis) as Belinda Blair, Rachel Ratkowski (Maplewood) as Poppy Norton-Taylor,  Austin Lee (New Hope) as Tim Allgood, and Tom Monn (Woodbury) as Selsdon Mowbray.


February 25, Thur (7:30 pm)
$12 Preview

February 26, Fri (7:30 pm)
Post-show reception

February 27, Sat (7:30 pm)

February 28, Sun (2:00 pm)
Post-show artist discussion

March 4, Fri (7:30 pm)

March 5, Sat (7:30 pm)

March 6, Sun (2:00 pm)

March 11, Fri (7:30 pm)

March 12, Sat (7:30 pm)

March 13, Sun (2:00 pm)

March 18, Fri (7:30 pm)

March 19, Sat (7:30 pm)

March 20, Sun (2:00 pm)

When you go:

-Performances are Feb 25 – Mar 20 at Lakeshore Players Theatre, 4820 Stewart Avenue in White Bear Lake.

-Tickets are $18-$23 and may be reserved in advance with remaining seats sold at the door starting two hours prior to show time. To purchase tickets in advance and select your own seats at no additional charge, go to or call 651-429-5674.

Noises Off Special Events:

-The $12 preview performance is Thursday, February 25.

-An opening night reception is included in the ticket price on Friday, February 26. Catered by Ingredients Cafe, the reception immediately follows the performance.

-Pay-what-you-can rush tickets will be available at the door starting at 6:30 p.m., while supplies last, on Saturday, February 27.

-Find out more about the show and how Lakeshore brings a story from page to stage at a post-show discussion with the cast and crew following the matinee performance on Sunday, February 28.

Noises Off is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Lakeshore Players Celebrates Valentine’s Day and Families with a Hearty Party


Sally-Anne Hunt is full of smiles and candy at Lakeshore Players Theatre (Photo submitted by Lauren Bergstrom).

Move over cupid, Lakeshore Players Theatre is taking over Valentine’s Day with Hearty Party a free Valentine’s Day celebration from 2-4 p.m. on February 13. There is something for everyone as adults as the two hours are filled with plenty of sweet candy, action-packed games, creative crafts, Valentine’s Day tales, and even a larger than life polar bear puppet greeting people at the door.

After a similar event in October, youth from Saint Paul said, “This was so fun. When do we get to come back?”

Forest Lake’s Vanessa Brook Agnes added, “It is great to see the smiles on the kids faces and families enjoying themselves in the theatre.”

Lakeshore’s Artistic Director Ben Ratkowski summarized the event by saying, “It has a Valentine’s day theme. But bringing families together and building community is what this event is all about.”

What: Hearty Party Valentine Day Celebration
When: Saturday, February 13
Time: 2-4 p.m.
Location: Lakeshore Players Theatre, 4820 Stewart Avenue, White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Phone: (651) 429-5674

This event is sponsored in part by Kindercare.