Boston charity aids effort to renovate downtown theater

LEWISTON – A Boston-based charity plans to give the Public Theatre $250,000 by year’s end, boosting an ongoing effort to renovate the downtown landmark.

“We’re a huge part of the cultural landscape of the community,” said Christopher Schario, artistic director of the 15-year-old organization. “And this is a gargantuan grant.”

The theater received $150,000 of the total gift only four days before Christmas. The remaining $100,000 is due to arrive in December of this year.

The money came from Jane’s Trust, a 4-year-old charity created in Boston by the estate of Jane B. Cook. Each year, the trust gives away millions to groups for the arts, health and welfare, the environment, and education.

This year, only one other arts group in Maine, the Tides Institute & Museum of Art, was awarded $50 for renovations to its building.

In Lewiston, the money will give a lift to the theater’s current $2.4 million capital campaign, pushing the total raised to $1.4 million.

It’s a jump in funding that would be tough to accomplish even with several generous – and wealthy – donors, Schario said.

The exact details of what this new money will buy is uncertain, he said.

“We are always in a state of developing what we’re going to do next,” he said. Already, major improvements have been done to the Maple Street theater, adding new bathrooms, expanding the lobby and installing new lighting equipment.

Future plans may include raising the ceiling and replacing the seats. The money may be spent there or elsewhere, Schario said.

Meanwhile, the gesture by Jane’s Trust suggests that people outside of Maine see the value of the theater, Schario said.

“We’ve always been in the black and we’re growing,” he said. “The Trust is looking at what we do and supporting our impact on the whole community.”