Theater opening generates excitement
By AMY WIMMER
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000
GULFPORT -- Tickets to the grand opening gala Sunday night at the new theater are the hottest in town.
So hot, in fact, that some city employees have sacrificed their seats so more people in the community can attend the big event. Tickets for opening night at the Catherine A. Hickman Theater of Gulfport went on sale at 8 a.m. Nov. 20. They sold out in two hours.
"I knew they'd go fast, but people who didn't get there by 10 o'clock in the morning could forget getting tickets," said City Council member Lynne Brown, who helped organize the evening's performance.
With all 181 theater seats filled for the 8 p.m. show, city officials are reminding local residents about the 5 p.m. open house.
Unlike the first-night performance, the open house is free and space is unlimited. It will feature some entertainment, tours of the facility and refreshments.
"We will accommodate anyone who wants to come to the ribbon-cutting and tour the facility," City Manager Bob Lee said.
When the red theater curtains open on Gulfport's newest venue, ticket-holders will be treated to performances by local opera singers, a local dance troupe and the Gulfport Community Players, who have prepared a one-act play for the evening.
At the open house, scheduled to run from 5 to 7 p.m., resident Richard Lupo will sing The Star-Spangled Banner, the City Council will have a formal ribbon-cutting, and tours of the new theater and renovated senior center will be available. Entertainers will perform continuously throughout the complex, including a violinist, a magician and street performers, and costumed historians.
The $970,000 theater, 5501 27th Ave. S, is attached to the city's senior center, which received $110,000 worth of improvements. State grants totaling $280,000 helped the projects.
Lee said several residents who couldn't get tickets have called the city in the hopes that some extras might be available. But the city doesn't have a private stash of tickets, he said.
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