According to The Stage the Belfast Lyric Theatre has received a £500,000 challenge grant from the US-based Kresge Foundation which will go towards rebuilding and fitting-out the theatre's Ridgeway Street home.
The theatre, which will have to raise £1.3 million privately by June 2010 in order to win the grant, has been trying to raise £18 million to meet the cost of the new building which will house a 350-seat main auditorium and 120-seat studio space, as well as new front of house and backstage facilities and offices.
News of the grant was hailed as "brilliant" by the theatre's patron, actor Liam Neeson. He said: "Support from Kresge is highly sought after, and competition for funds is very tough - I'm delighted that we have been awarded this prestigious grant".
Kresge Foundation director Rip Rapson also added: "We felt compelled to support the Lyric for many reasons, including the significant impact the theatre has on it's community and the crucial role it plays in creating a vibrant, healthy and tolerant society".