One of the Lyric Theatre's most famous alumni Ciaran Hinds has thrown his weight behind its fundraising campaign by pledging money to name a seat in the new proposed £17.25m venue.
The seat campaign is just one of a number of initiatives aimed at urgently raising the remaining £2m needed to build the new theatre on the riverbank site in Belfast and to safeguard its future. The current venue will close in January 2008.
Belfast-born Ciaran, who trod the boards in the Lyric in his early days in a number of productions, was back at the south Belfast theatre yesterday to have a last look around before it closes.
And the actor, who heads off to Broadway soon to work alongside another local actor, Conleth Hill, said the new theatre was all part of Belfast's regeneration, which he was keen to support.
"I've been reading things about this idea of developing the theatre as part of the regeneration of Belfast and it seems everyone is clamouring for a piece of the pie," he said.
"Belfast should have three or four cultural centres and the Lyric is important as it's devoted to the spoken word and Northern Irish culture has always been rich in the written word with Heaney, Friel, McGuinness and Jennifer Johnston.
"When I was a kid in the late '60s I remember being brought to the theatre with my mum and I was stimulated by the stories.
"As an actor later, I came back to Belfast and was offered the opportunity to work at the Lyric. The next generation needs somewhere too, there's such a wealth of talent here and they need a proper outlet."
Since his early days playing in Lyric productions like Equus and Once A Catholic, Ciaran has enjoyed a varied and illustrious acting career, starring in the recent television series Rome, in which he played Julius Caesar.
Other small screen roles have included Rochester in Jane Eyre and Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge and he has acted in movies such as Munich, The Road To Perdition and Tomb Raider.
Ciaran said: "I will name a seat, but not after myself. I'll probably name one as a tribute to someone else.
"At the moment the Lyric has fallen short of its funds by £2m but this seat campaign could raise maybe £150,000 or £200,000. It's definitely possible."
For anyone interested, a personal donation of £500 or a corporate donation of £1,000 will secure your seat. For details call 9038 5692.