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Last spring, to preview the new venue and attract audiences, Cygnet staged Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music at Old Town; 11,656 people saw that show, still praised as one of the year’s best. The eye-opener: 3000 were new to Cygnet. “Some had heard about us,” says Schmidt, “others just came off the street, tourists.”

“And,” Murray adds with pride, “we had all local talent on that stage.”

By comparison, Cygnet’s Fences, another of the year’s best shows, ran seven weeks at Rolando, including an extension, and played to 4829.

When they renovated at Rolando, Murray admits, “It was like having a big party in a small apartment.” The work was “production- and product-oriented. It had eye appeal, if you didn’t peek under the rug.”

Old Town renovations run deep. The new barn-red exterior has the “American period” look. The box office and lobby have Victorian touches: Persian carpet, kerosene-style lamps, and a coved ceiling. The stage, however, is neutral, which enables Cygnet to perform contemporary works amid the state park’s requirements. “We feel really good about the changes we made,” says Schmidt. “The state wants this to work, and we’re excited about bringing theater back to Old Town.”

Both Schmidt and Murray admit that their timing, which felt hectic at first, was fortunate. Since the economic climate has changed so much since they won the bid, could they have begun the process today?

“We started raising funds about a year ago,” says Schmidt. “As of October 15, we had signed pledges and gifts of about $950,000. So the drive continues. If we started today? It’d be a lot more difficult. We’d need much more time, that’s certain. But we’d do it. It’d get done.”

Previews for Cygnet’s Christmas Carol at the Old Town Theatre begin this Friday, November 28.

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