THE SHOW GOES ON
Broadway’s Best Theatre Co. has come a long way since its start in a gutted hardware store in 2013. Gutted ACE Hardware store becomes theatre
What started as a dream and a small, 16-by-12-foot stage in a gutted ACE Hardware store is now a burgeoning theater. But now, as theaters across the Triad are gearing up for the fall season, the theater is asking for help so that its shows can go on.
“We’ve done pretty well,” said Gene Johnson, artistic director and CEO of Broadway’s Best Theatre Company. “Attendance was up and down depending on time of year and competition, but we felt pretty good that we’ve been able to pay our way and keep our head above water.”
So far, Broadway’s Best Theatre Co. has produced 10 shows in the last 14 months.
Its origin dates back to April of 2013, when founders Its origin dates back to April of 2013, when founders Gene Johnson, Stanley Bernstein and Steve Bradford started the theater in hopes of providing both “quality entertainment” and “jobs [for] one of the most underemployed groups in America.”
The first show, a musical revue the founders affectionately called “Barebones Broadway,” was produced with seven actors and borrowed lights and chairs.
Now the theater has a stage twice the size, 150 of its own chairs, its own lighting system, a dressing room, a concession stand and bar and a shop backstage for repairs and construction.
To help ensure the nonprofit theater stands on stable ground, Broadway’s Best is running a Theatre Renovation Fundraising Campaign. Funds raised will be used to add new restrooms, and to upgrade heating, air conditioning and insulation to the facility in order to offer patrons more comfort and to increase efficiency and reduce noise.
“The future is a question mark,” Johnson said. “We need to develop enough funding to add on restrooms and upgrade our heating and air in order to feel confident about going ahead with our first season of summer stock next year, but right now things look promising.
“I think the fact we successfully produced 10 shows in a little over a year and two shows with guests artists in May and July is the best sign of growth.”
In addition to individual donations, the theater is seeking corporate and civic organizations for ongoing sponsorships and partnering on events.
“We may not be able to complete all renovations by next summer,” Johnson continued, “but if we can reach those goals we feel we can launch a somewhat scaled down summer season, with paid positions and full sets and costumes.”
In the long run, the theater hopes to expand to a full 25-by-30-foot stage and add seating risers to increase capacity.
If the theater completes the improvements on the restrooms and heating and cooling unit by January, then it’ll be on target to begin its first season of summer stock theater in June.
“We’re already working on a budget and starting to look at a selection of shows for the summer,” Johnson said.
The theater is planning two shows this fall: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and an all-vocal family-friendly Christmas show which has yet to be announced.
The first show of its fall season is a dinner show with catering provided by California Fresh.
“I think all theatres are struggling to stay afloat and only the tiniest of theatres sell out all the time,” Johnson said. “It saddens me to read about Shakespeare Festival and theatres in other parts of the state that have closed. When you consider how many years some of them operated successfully, it certainly gives one pause when trying to start a new venture like ours.
“We feel if we can ever get fully renovated, we stand a very good chance to be almost self-funded due to our plan to partner with wineries and other attractions for recruiting tourists and bus tours to the area. The problem is getting to that point. It’s been a tough economy for most nonprofits and the arts is seldom the first on donors’ lists.
“We can only hope some will see the value of the arts for kids and seniors and education as well.” !
Tax-deductible donations can be made through the theater’s Theatre Renovation campaign on gofundme.com, or through JustGive.org. Find more information about the theater and its fundraisers at broadwaysbest.biz. Broadway’s Best Theatre is located at 103 Beechtree Place, Mocksville.