By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Lighthouse Repertory Theatre President Joan Buhler may have groaned inwardly just a little bit when she heard the news that was closing its doors.

andquot;When the article came out, I said 'Oh no, this is too soon,'andquot; Buhler said.

Still, she's not worried about another group beating her to the purchase of the G Street property, having committed the group to doing just that at a price of $288,000.

andquot;We need $120,000 in 60 days, and a final payment 120 days after escrow,andquot; Buhler said.

The property went into escrow Monday.

andquot;This is just exciting to me, it doesn't seem daunting or out-of-reach,andquot; said fundraising committee head Katherine Gurney. andquot;We're sort of outgrowing the little Crescent Elks theater. This is more like a natural progression; it's exciting, but it will take a lot of work.andquot;

To accomplish that lofty goal, Lighthouse Repertory Theatre is launching a fund-raising effort.

It's already heard from some key people who would like to help bring success to the production company.

andquot;We have already started a patron plan, and we have some businesses who have supported us,andquot; she said. andquot;Most of them have been around for awhile; so many people have sat on those hard seats at Crescent Elks School Auditorium, and it gets so hot there.andquot;

Stephanie LaTorre has three events planned already - one for each of the first three weekends in June.

A community concert starts the ball rolling June 2. It will feature singers from the high school, local churches and individual performers who have worked with Lighthouse Repertory Theatre.

A masquerade ball is next up on June 9 at the Del Norte Cultural Center.

andquot;It will give people a chance to dress up, eat a nice dinner and take part in a silent auction,andquot; LaTorre said.

June 16 is a Ladies' Pajama Party that will feature vendors selling jewelry and bath products. Refreshments and entertainment are also part of the package, and each attendee will get a chair massage or paraffin hand treatment and have a chance to win door prizes.

andquot;This would be a good Mother's Day or Graduation Day gift,andquot; LaTorre said. andquot;There will be more events, but right now it's just a fund-raising frenzy.andquot;

The theater company will have a booth at the upcoming Tall-Masted Ships Celebration.

The buyout of Red's is a andquot;two-phaseandquot; project, according to Buhler.

At the top of the list is getting into the building and cleaning it out: removing the partition to restore it to a single theater building, making the building and its rest rooms ADA compliant, adding a fire exit, improving the lighting and drying out the below-grade portion of the interior floor.

That done, the group would need to construct a stage, dressing rooms, a production area, ground-floor sound booth and make agreements for after-hours patron parking on other businesses' property.

andquot;There's the Medicine Shoppe and the Courthouse building,andquot; Buhler said. andquot;We need off-street parking for about 300 people.andquot;

The former Red's building seats 290 now, but that figure could drop a tad, according to Buhler.

andquot;We would like to have 400 seats because Del Norte Association for Cultural Awareness frequently sells out, and so does the dance company,andquot; she said. andquot;We will lose about 10 of the 290 seats to wheelchair parking areas and the sound booth, and we will have to remove a row to create access to the (additional) fire escape.andquot;

Part of the company's Phase 2 plan is to build on to the lot next door, Buhler said.

andquot;We have much configuring we have to do,andquot; she said.

The theater company's project will mark the first work done to the Red's building since the 1980s. It was built in 1952 and partitioned two and one-half decades ago.

If the company can justify an expansion in a few years, seats could be increased to accommodate other local performing companies.

Current plans don't rule out working with other local performers who might want to lease the building for their own shows, however it's too soon for details to be available at this time.

What is certain is that the company wants to defray as many of its expenses as possible through donations.

andquot;We will probably run them through an endowment; we have to stay good with our nonprofit status,andquot; Buhler said.

Donations are now being accepted.

andquot;This was mostly my idea at first, but the board's behind it now,andquot; Buhler said. andquot;I knew the whole town would be behind us.andquot;