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Theatre Lawrence founder, longtime director to retire

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Theatre board committee conducting national search for replacement

Mary Doveton, who founded what was then called Lawrence Community Theatre in 1977 and has remained at the helm for more than four decades, will soon be retiring as executive director of Theatre Lawrence.

Doveton directed many of the organization’s early shows, “traveling with performances in churches and parks as well as at the Carnegie Building when it became the early Lawrence Arts Center,” according to a news release from the theatre.

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“Rehearsals were held in whatever space was available. Sets were built everywhere—barns, empty buildings and occasionally outdoors,” the release continued. “Finally with an intrepid company of determined artists, the group, then known as Lawrence Community Theatre, raised enough money to purchase and transform an old church at 15th and New Hampshire into a performance space.”

Over the years, the theatre and its programming have grown and survived both a fire and a flood, according to the release. The 35,000-square-foot Theatre Lawrence at 4660 Bauer Farm Drive opened nine years ago, following a successful campaign that raised $7.2 million.

“I treasure the memories and the friendship of the many talented people who have helped birth and grow this theatre,” Doveton said in the release. “Their dedication, their imagination and their persistence have created an arts institution in which we can all take pride. The stories, the music and the laughter given life on the stage have brought tears and joy to hundreds of thousands of people.”

Doveton has also “been an active leader with the American Association of Community Theatre serving in several capacities on the national board and adjudicating state, regional and national theatre festivals. She is a member of the AACT College of Fellows, community theatre’s highest honor,” according to the release.

Bob Newton, president of the Theatre Lawrence Board of Directors, said via email Friday morning that it won’t be easy to replace Doveton.

“We feel, however, that Theatre Lawrence will be seen as a very attractive opportunity for an experienced community theatre executive,” he said.

The appointed search committee consists of officers, board members and staff, Newton said. The committee will solicit qualified candidates nationally, with an application closing date of July 31. Information about the position will be posted on the Theatre Lawrence website next week, he said.

“There is no set timetable for the search, as Mary intends to remain as Executive Director until the transition is complete,” Newton said.

The theatre recently announced its 2022-23 season. Closing out the current season will be “Hello, Dolly!” The Broadway hit will run from June 10 through June 26.

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