Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Plainview officials contemplate loss of theater business

Sherri Norton, Plainview Chamber of Commerce president and owner of Uptown Interiors in Plainview, says she was surprised to hear that the Jon Hassler Theater was closing. "It's going to be a loss for our community."

PLAINVIEW — News that the professional Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview will close at the end of 2014 was greeted with surprise and disappointment Wednesday by community leaders and merchants.

"I was very surprised to hear the news," Sherri Norton, president of the Plainview-Elgin-Millville Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday. "It's going to be a loss for our community. It brought in a lot of people from different towns and communities."

The theater was an economic plus for the city, said Plainview MayorTodd Graves.

"They put on a lot of great shows and drew a good crowd of people to town," Graves said. "What I've heard in the community, if anything, is surprise."

Hassler officials announced last week that the theater, which was founded in 1999, will close at the end of next year due to lack of audience support for its slate of primarily alternative and fringe-festival-type plays presented by Twin Cities theater companies.


Musical comedies, such as the annual "Don't Hug Me" series, were always popular at the Hassler, often drawing sellout crowds. But "theater has other, deeper purposes, too, and those are the ones we were most interested in as an arts organization," said Dean Harrington, Hassler CEO. "I don't know if that kind of theater is flourishing anywhere."

Still, even smaller crowds of theater-goers can have an effect on Main Street commerce in a small community. "People traveled to come here, and it was good for other businesses," said Norton, who owns a furniture and decorating store in Plainview.

At Dogpound Pizza, located directly across Broadway from the Hassler, there was a bump in business on play nights, said Donna Labare, whose son owns the restaurant.

"We close at 8, so we didn't get the after-play business," she said. "But we'd get people in before the play. I'm sure it will have an impact on us. We're going to be sorry when it closes."

The Rural American Arts Partnership spent $480,000 purchasing and refurbishing the theater building, which opened in 1948 as an implement dealership. Through the years, the operation has expanded to include a used bookshop with 10,000 volumes on the shelves, and an art gallery featuring rotating exhibits. The theater is named for the late Jon Hassler, a novelist who grew up in Plainview. In fact, the RAAP also owns Hassler's boyhood home.

Ideally, Harrington said, the building will be sold to owners who will retain it as a theater. Plainview Community Theater and Plainview-Elgin-Millville High School present plays in the building, and school officials toured the building earlier this week. The bookstore and art gallery, along with RAAP's writing and poetry programs, could move to another location, Harrington said.

Other than next fall's scheduled production of "Don't Hug Me, We're Married," the Hassler's days as a professional stage are numbered.

And Plainview's identity as one of the rare small towns with a professional theater will end next year, to the obvious disappointment of many.


"It's a great thing to have in your community," Graves said.

The John Hassler Theater in Plainview

What To Read Next
Get Local