Saturday, September 12, 2009

Location: Donation

Two of my favorite little theaters are in the midst of crucial fundraising campaigns. Well, I should revise that: EVERY little theatre is ALWAYS fundraising, but I'm paying a bit more attention to these two right now.

Wayside Theatre, where I had a ball this spring playing Sancho Panza, is always living on the edge. They are located out in the boonies of Virginia, amongst folks for whom theatre-going is not a natural activity. So, they have ongoing campaigns to raise funds, like the traditional Buying of the Brick, and the Sponsoring of a Seat, and so forth. They try to get creative, too. A month or so ago, they ran a gin tournament, with the proceeds going to the theatre, in conjunction with their production of (you guessed it) The Gin Game. But Wayside's fundraising has kicked up a notch lately, as they received the promise of a $25,000 donation if they can match it with 25 grand from other donors.

Since I'm not a fundraiser (thank god, I'd be piss-poor at it), I don't know if that kind of challenge is welcomed by a theatre or not. On the one hand, it seems like, if someone has the intention of donating a sum of money to a theatre, just go ahead and do it. Why make the organization jump through hoops? Maybe they want to test the resolve of the theatre to raise funds? I don't know. On the other hand, perhaps theaters actually appreciate such public challenges; it gives them a hook with which to reel in more donations. It worked with me, I'll tell you. When I heard that Wayside could receive $50,000 for raising only half that, I pulled out my plastic and donated. I could only afford a pittance, to be sure, but every single dollar helps. I believe it is the first time I ever donated to a theatrical organization. Hey, I'm on unemployment right now, and I've already sent money to cancer and AIDS causes this season. But I want Wayside Theatre to succeed here. If you can spare a ten-spot, or more (or less!), go here to help them out. They have only until the closing of their current show (Sept. 26, just two weeks away!) in which to raise the 25 grand, or they will lose the matching donation.

North Carolina Stage Company is getting creative, too. They are now on my radar because I played Polonius for them in Roz and Guil Are Dead early this year. Located in Asheville, which is a booming arts center these days, you might think things would be easier for them, but you would be wrong. Just like Wayside, NCStage is having trouble funding their upcoming season, and this weekend, they are running what has become an annual event. They call it their "Bard-a-thon." They are reading 12 Shakespearean plays in the 48 hours between Friday and Sunday night, all day and all night long. Sort of like a walk-a-thon, the actors have all secured promises of donations once they complete the marathon. New curtains go up every four hours, so the actors get a half hour or so between readings to try to catch some zzzzs.

This theatre is run by two real pips, as my mother would say, and they have nicknamed their event "Bard Till You Barf." A little crude for such a worthy endeavor. I prefer "iambics till you're ill," but that's just me.

The fun part here is, you can watch the whole thing on a live stream on the Internet. Go here to take a peek, and if you like, make comments on what you are seeing (if you get a test screen, it just means you are between readings. Go here for the complete schedule). I've watched a bit of it, and it's kind of fun. The actors, all volunteers of course, are to be commended for putting themselves through this (as you can imagine, most of the casts are made up of college-age thespians who don't have as much trouble staying up all weekend as folks). I'm told the readings which begin at 4 AM are quite unique; early this morning, they read Two Gentlemen of Verona, and if you are going to read something aloud at 4 o'clock in the morning, it might as well be Two Gents. Tonight, or rather, early tomorrow morning, they are reading the same play they read during that slot last year, Titus Andronicus. I don't know, I have a feeling they are reviving that crowd-pleaser because things went horribly (or hilariously) astray last year. I doubt I'll be awake to see it.

Anyway, the Bard-a-thon ends at 7 PM tomorrow, Sunday, and their hope is to earn $7000. Doesn't sound like much for the extreme effort this is taking. Once again, I pulled out my plastic and pledged a pittance. Believe me, the irony of theaters needing contributions from their actors is not lost on anybody involved. But if you can spare anything to help NCStage out, go here.

Once more, to help Wayside Theatre get their huge matching donation, go here. They lose 25 grand if they don't make their goal by September 26.

To help out the volunteers at North Carolina Stage Company during their 48 hour "Pentameter Till You Puke" weekend, go here. (If you actually want to sponsor a specific actor, sponsor either Angie or Charlie Flynn-McIver; they run the joint, and if one of them beats the other, they get a free gift from a business called Hip Replacements. I don't want to know what kind of free gift a business called Hip Replacements might offer...)

Yes, it's tough asking for donations in this economy, but these two theaters deserve to keep their doors open, if for no other reason than, I want to work there again. My unemployment's running out!