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

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!




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.

Family Halloween Spooktacular

Halloween Party Flyer_Single

Kids and their Families are Invited to Play in Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab at FREE Lakeshore Players Event Oct. 31 (2-4pm)

Kids up to 12 years of age are invited to Lakeshore Players for a fun free daytime Halloween event.

Lakeshore education staff will be on hand to guide kids in fun and games on stage in “Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab.”

Kids can listen to (not so) spooky stories, make a mask or make a monster, play “witch hat ring toss,” and go on a pumpkin hunt with treats for prizes.

There will also be a costume parade at 3:30 p.m. to show off Halloween costumes in the neighborhood and get some extra treats.


Sponsored by Kindercare, this free event is 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Lakeshore Players Theatre, 4820 Stewart Avenue in White Bear Lake.

For more information, call 651-429-5674.


Sleeping Beauty Kids

Lakeshore Players’ 2014 Summer Youth Players, Jr. participants.