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Canebrake Players to add handicap upgrades to theater with first grant

A longtime goal of the Canebrake Players will soon become reality due in large part to the organization’s first grant award.

Last year, the Canebrake Players officially became a non-profit organization, allowing them to apply for certain grant funding. Recently they were notified that they would be awarded $14,200 through the Alabama Historical Commission. The funds will be used to install a handicap lift at the Old School on Main where the Canebrake Players perform. The building is also utilized by other organizations such as the Two Rivers Arts Council and Girl Scouts.

The total cost to install the lift is approximately $22,000. The Canebrake Players will be paying the difference along with about $3,000 in additional funds for handicap upgrades in the restrooms.

Kelley Mullins and Donna Bishop of the Canebrake Players said members of the group are very excited to improve access to the building that has been home to local theater since 1981.

“This is something we’ve wanted to do for years,” Mullins said. “We know people who want to come to the show but don’t because it’s difficult to get in the building.”

“We have older patrons who have supported us since 1981. Some of them are no longer able to come to the shows simply because of the stairs. We want everyone who enjoys theater to have access,” Bishop said.

Increasing accessibility could also lead to other projects for the Players.

“We have wanted to do a show geared toward special needs children in the area but realized a large portion of that group would not be able to get into the building without assistance. We are passionate about the building being open to everyone. No one should have to travel to Tuscaloosa or Birmingham to see a show.”

The Alabama Historical Commission grant was specifically designated for projects related to improving historic structures. According to Mullins, there was $900,000 in grants to award, but there was over $2 million in applications for the grant.

While the Canebrake Players wrote the grant, the City of Demopolis signed off on the application as owner of the building.

“We are thankful to the City of Demopolis for our ongoing partnership in meeting the needs of the building. We also appreciate the Alabama Historical Commission for seeing this as a worthy project,” Mullins said.

Even with the grant, the project would not be a reality without the additional funds provided by the Canebrake Players.

“We would not be able to fund the difference without those who have supported us over the past 30 years,” Bishop said.

The Canebrake Players hope to begin work on the stair lift project in January and that it will be ready by their first show of 2020. Once the lift is installed, work will begin on the bathroom portion of the project.

The Canebrake Players are now working toward their Christmas production, “A Sanders Family Christmas,” a sequel to the popular “Smoke on the Mountain.” That production is scheduled for Dec. 13-16.

In February, the group will present its children’s production, “The Wind in the Willows.”

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, November 20 issue of the Demopolis Times.)