New Gurnee Theater Group Determined to Find Support

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Byline: Bob Susnjara Daily Herald Staff Writer

An effort to bring professional theater to Lake County's No. 1 tourism spot will be dicey in today's sagging economy, according to a market analyst.

John Melaniphy III says the new Gurnee Theatre Co. will find itself in a difficult battle for the entertainment dollar.

Organizers of the theater troupe disagree with Melaniphy, in part because of several professionals who are volunteering their talents in marketing, fund-raising and other nuts-and-bolts aspects of the venture. About 40 residents showed up Monday to a town hall meeting hosted by the theater group.

"All I've heard is people have wanted to do this for 30 years and nobody had taken the bull by the horns," said Doug McDade, who launched the Gurnee Theatre Co. with fellow village resident Mark Heller.

Organizers are in discussions about possibly moving into a section of the closed Piggly Wiggly store and adjacent space on Grand Avenue, just east of the Tri-State Tollway and north of Six Flags Great America. The former Welton's County Market on Grand Avenue east of Route 41 also has been mentioned as a possible venue for the theater.

McDade does not hide from the fact the effort will require donated money. He said the troupe, which has official not-for- profit status from the Illinois secretary of state's office, wants to raise cash "with a certain sense of style."

"What do we need first? We need big money as fast as possible," said McDade, adding that he already has heard from a local pizzeria willing to contribute money from sales on a given day to the Gurnee Theatre Co.

However, Melaniphy, who studies Gurnee as part of his analyst job, contends big bucks might be difficult to snag. …