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No. 2: Stage set for 'new' historic Sheldon

Sheldon Theatre Executive Director Bonnie Schock and Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse cut the ribbon outside of the Sheldon during the grand reopening celebration on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. The ribbon was held by state Sen. Mike Goggin and Rep. Barb Haley. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
At the Sheldon's reopening extravaganza visitors were treated to cake as they left the restored theater. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.

The doors are open, the lights are on and the curtain is up: The Sheldon Theatre is back in the business of entertainment.

A lot needed to happen before the fourth months of refurbishments were completed: a family restroom was built, new carpet was laid, the third-floor studio was created, the green room was installed for performers and paint was touched-up. Also important, but not as shiny or pretty as the other improvements, was the new HVAC system, steel support beams in the main entryway and new roof — the kind of things that would become obvious if they weren't updated.

"So far it has really been an extraordinary reaction," Bonnie Schock, executive director of the theater, said. "Everything from folks who have had a long connection to here, in one way or another, kind of tearing-up seeing it ... to seeing people come again and again and again in our opening festivities."

The year 2017 was a record-breaking one for the Sheldon's ticket sales. According to Schock, when comparing late November 2018 to late November 2017, ticket sales are up by another 16 percent.

"We're definitely seeing a trend of folks coming back and new people coming and discovering us," she said.

Though there are many new things in the Sheldon, one thing has not changed: its variety in programming. The 2018-2019 season features ballet, local theater, breakdancing, Cirque Mechanic and a wide range of other shows.

Schock explained that the process of planning a season at the Sheldon has numerous steps.

"We start from mission," she said, "which is entertain, educate and enlighten the community and its visitors, and from there we built these series — there's six different live performing arts series on the season. Each one of those performing arts series is aligned, to a greater degree or a lesser degree, with one of those three mission-based priorities."

Currently, Schock and others involved with the Sheldon are planning the 2019-2020 season. One thing that Schock is excited about for this season and next season is the use of the new third-floor studio space. The studio has already hosted a variety of private events and play rehearsals. On Dec. 15, theater-goers attended a dinner catered by Bleu Dog Cafe. Later this season, a dance performance meant for smaller spaces will be in the studio. Schock hopes that the 2019-2020 season will include a play performed in the studio.

Schock is piecing together the next season at the Sheldon. It takes a lot of work and can often feel like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, but Schock thinks it is important and worth the work. She stated:

"Oftentimes we think entertainment is entertainment, but, that live experience with an artist who is really authentic and is telling their story, whether it's through song or through narrative, or whatever may be, when that's real and it's connected (to) an audience, it can change the vibrations of your body."

With a revitalized theater, this work can continue at the Sheldon. To Schock, the fact that the Sheldon is again open and hosting numerous events is a testament to the Red Wing community and its citizen's dedication to the theater and the arts.

"I feel like that's the story: that we made the choice again and again to take care of something, and it makes a difference," she said.