ELLENVILLE – The launch of the Shadowland Theatre's new capital fundraising campaign brought out a big crowd to hear the details on Monday evening, July 25.
The campaign, titled "Light The Way" is aimed at raising $1 million for a variety of uses, including such luxuries as real dressing rooms for the actors to replace the little basement spaces they have been using.
In addition to kicking off the Light The Way campaign, the Monday event also showed off the Shadowland's recent acquisition, the 5,300 square foot space that used to be Richie's Hardware store at the corner of Market Street and Center Street. The space was given to the theatre by an anonymous donor, someone who loves the Shadowland Theatre.
Jim McIntyre, long time force for the Shadowland, emceed the event with his customary passion and brio. McIntrye noted in passing that of the $1 million target for the new campaign, the Board of Directors had already put in $325,000, giving things a flying start. Bill Collier, President of the Board of Directors, said that the Shadowland's survival was down to a lot of things, but that the support from local merchants had been truly crucial. That, and all the hard work put in by a great many people over the years.
Collier singled out Brendan Burke, Artistic Director of the Shadowland, for praise, noting that Burke's effort for the Shadowland was 24/7/365, and that without him, "We wouldn't be here today." Collier concluded by asking the audience to imagine coming back to the Shadowland in twenty-three years, to celebrate the theatre's fiftieth anniversary.
Ron Marquette, the first artistic director, who brought together the original group of actors back in January 1985, and started the Shadowland as a theatre (it was an old vaudeville house, long shuttered at that time), also spoke.
"Half of it was a flea market," he said to laughter, "and the other half was a health food store."
"With the help of R.J. Smith and Ed Jacobs, and with about forty other people, working on it, we got it ready and we opened on April 14."
"We raised $50,000 — everyone put in $1,500. And we gave Ed Jacobs, who owned the building, $12,000. R.J. waived his fee."
"Actually," R.J. Smith interjected, "you got $1,500 out of me."
"Oh, that's right. I said, 'Don't waive your fee, just give us $1,500.'"
From those madcap days, the Shadowland has gone on to become a firm fixture in the artistic galaxy of Ulster County, something that has not gone unnoticed.
Mike Hein, Ulster County Chief Executive, also addressed the crowd and said, "A place like this is what helps make our communities. I am proud to be Chief Executive of a place that has more artists than anywhere else in the country." Hein explained that part of the magic of the Shadowland for him came from seeing his own eleven year old son wake up to the power of live theatre by seeing it for himself.
Hein concluded by urging the audience "to hold onto this incredible gem, the Shadowland Theatre."
The capital campaign is slated to continue repairs and improvements to the theatre, as well as to complete the downtown housing for actors and staff. Brendan Burke noted that the Shadowland has now installed year-round heating and air conditioning, at a cost of $117,675. That opens the way for the theatre season to be extended into the winter months. In addition $88,325 has been spent on the Actors' Residence at Elting Court. Burke noted that if you passed that building recently you would see the siding going up, the last step toward completion of the project.
Future projects will include creating a "Black Box" theatre at the new space on Market Street, as well as a "Prop Shop" and offices there. The "Box" theatre will be available for experimental work, rehearsal and education. For the main theatre itself, renovation work on offices, the box office, lobby, and seating area are just part of an estimated $400,000 effort to bring the quality of the theater's structure up to the same level as the quality of the shows that have given the theatre its luster over the past decade or so.
Brendan Burke noted that the Shadowland had its best season ever, last year. Box office sales have risen 70% over the past five years and attendance is close to capacity now. In addition, the children's acting class program has grown 500% and despite the recession the Shadowland has seen a big surge in support, a strong contrast with most other arts organizations in the USA.
For more information about the Shadowland, and the Light the Way capital campaign, call 845-647-5511.