CLINTON — A Clinton County Development Association donation will provide a major boost to the local showboat theater as it raises funds to secure its future.
The CCDA, which designates grants derived through casino gaming revenue, at its meeting last week unanimously approved a $25,000 donation to the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre. CAST board members in March announced the organization was in financial peril caused by the impact of COVID pandemic and the loss of a major fundraiser and have been working to raise funds.
Prior to the vote Wednesday, CCDA Board President David Sivright told the board that the CCDA had previously granted a donation request from another organization.
“A donation to help a nonprofit facing unusual circumstances is not unprecedented for this board,” said Sivright. “In April 2020, we paid $10,000 to the Disaster Recovery Coalition of Clinton County to fund insecurity caused by the pandemic.”
CCDA Board member Eric Gettes asked Clinton Area Showboat Theatre Board of Directors Vice President Chris Streets whether the donation will be used for this year’s operational costs or to provide funds for next year.
Streets said he is hopeful it would be used as seed money for the 2024 season and while donations have been picking up, CAST is now paying cast members’ housing costs and making final payments on royalties.
CCDA Board Member Les Shields asked Streets whether he was optimistic the fundraising will be successful in saving professional theater in Clinton this year and next year.
“One of the mistakes that the showboat has made in the past few years is we haven’t expressed how much we’ve needed as far as fundraising goes,” Streets said. “We had gotten, I think, a little comfortable knowing that donations were going to come in and things were going to happen and tickets were going to sell. And we didn’t share with people when we were running short.
“We just scampered to figure out a way to fix it. With people knowing that we’ve had this shortfall of cash over the last couple years, the donations have picked up. We’ve seen donations from all over the country.”
Grantwriters have approached CAST and offered their assistance, too, Streets said.
“I think saving professional theater this season is going to build into the future,” Streets said.
“You can’t save it next year if you don’t save it this year,” CCDA Board Member Brig Tubbs replied.
Streets said the CAST Board earlier this year did take a vote on whether to open this season, but knew if the theater did not open it would be blackballed by the professional union.
When asked how much money CAST wants to raise, Streets said that ideally, the board wants to start the season with $90,000 cash in the bank. At CAST’s last board meeting, they were at $74,000, he said, adding that ticket sales are just starting.
“For this season our budget is just shy of $300,000,” he said.
That covers “payroll, costuming and royalties and housing, everything. With that we cut almost $100,000 since last season.”
Other measures also will help, he said. The city of Clinton is doing something it has not done in the past 35 years by covering the cost of utilities, which comes in around $15,000. Fulton Christmas dinner organizers have pledged to raise funds for CAST this year and a couple fundraisers are planned after the 2023 season concludes, he said.
Also, two CAST employees, including CAST Producing Artistic Director James Kyle Davis, are donating their salaries back to CAST, Streets said.
“Professional theater that we have with the showboat is one of the attractions for people looking at a community,” said Shields, describing CAST’s presence as a goldmine. “It’s housing, it’s education, recreational facilities, it’s cultural activities.”
He then made the motion to donate $25,000, which was unanimously approved.
CAST’s 2023 season will begin with the Leading Ladies Cabaret from June 1-11, followed by Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein from June 15-25.
A Broadway adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is scheduled for June 29-July 16, and The SpongeBob Musical is July 20-30. The season is to end with the comedic Murder For Two from Aug. 3-13.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.ClintonShowboat.com, where donations to the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre can also be made, or through the theater’s GoFundMe page at https://gofund.me/d99e7f5c.
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