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Red Wing Area Bucket List: See a show at the Sheldon

The Sheldon Theatre in downtown Red Wing is a "regional resource," Executive Director Sean Dowse said.2 / 6
A mural decorates the space above the stage at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing.3 / 6
Moviegoers gather on Aug. 9 to watch "Grease" at the Sheldon, part of the theater's summer movie series focusing on musicals.4 / 6
The hallway of the Sheldon Theatre shows off the building's architecture and design.5 / 6
The view from the balcony at the Sheldon offers a different perspective of the theater.6 / 6

The thrill of the theater draws in spectators of all ages and backgrounds, and that experience can be had right here in Red Wing.

One of the city's treasures, the Sheldon Theatre offers plenty of opportunities to experience its stage or screen -- and the magnificent building that houses them.

The theater's architecture has been celebrated, and the building has unique touches and many details both inside and out. There are murals, intricate carvings, big windows, plush seats and decorative entries, just to name a few.

"It's a glorious place to look at," Executive Director Sean Dowse said.

The 466-seat theater is a "regional resource," Dowse said.

"It's a great place where artists and audiences can gather in an intimate place," he said. "It's unique for the area."

The Sheldon's history and public-private partnership also makes it special, Dowse said.

The theater was built in 1904 with funds from Theodore B. Sheldon, and it was the first municipally owned theater in the country. Sheldon donated $83,000 in trust to the city, and the trust directors decided to use the funds for a theater. It housed traveling shows and stage productions.

In 1936, the theater was renovated and shifted to a movie theater, adding seats and revamping the interior layout.

But the theater started struggling in the 1970s when competition increased. A task force started studying the idea of restoring the theater and again using it for stage productions. In 1986 it was closed and restored with funds stemming from a bond approved by the citizens of Red Wing along with private contributions. It reopened to once again house stage productions.

The live performance atmosphere is something many people comment on when they see a show at the Sheldon, Dowse said.

"The relationship with the artist is something you can't find very often anywhere," he said.

But the Sheldon has not left its cinematic past behind completely.

On top of year-round stage productions, the Sheldon also holds movie nights. The summer series started after staff came up with the idea.

"They thought it would be great to have something to do on Thursday nights in the summer," Dowse said. "People seem to be responding to it."

In the winter people can choose what genre of films they want to see that summer, from horror flicks to musical movies. Then, after a list is compiled, they choose their favorites for the lineup.

Last week locals and visitors gathered to watch "Grease."

"It's pretty cool and something different," Jaime Weissman, who was visiting family in town, said of the movie showings.

Other musical movies that played this summer included everything from "White Christmas" to "Jailhouse Rock," "Phantom of the Opera" to "West Side Story."

The movies run Thursdays at 7 p.m. and cost $5. A few still remain this summer.

If movie musicals aren't your thing, there are plenty of other options at the Sheldon, from bands to ballets to plays.

The 2012-2013 season schedule and lineup was recently announced and includes shows such as the James Sewert ballet, Sheldon Theatre Brass Band performances, the 1942 film "Casablanca" and the Phoenix Theatre's staging of "The Importance of Being Earnest."

"What we try to do is get something for everybody down here," Dowse said.

Coming up...

There are still a few movie nights left at the Sheldon Theatre this summer. All showings start at 7 p.m. and cost $5.

•Aug. 16: "Oklahoma!"

•Aug. 23: "The King and I"

•Aug. 30: "The Sound of Music"

For more information on these and other Sheldon activities, visit

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

(651) 459-4629