Well, here we go. Another opening and another show at Wayside Theatre. Like all things worthwhile there are always challenges to be met along the way and even though it is a few hours before curtain, I think I can safely say we've met the ones facing us here. But before I get to those challenges, let me update those who follow here and care about Wayside Theatre's progress in meeting the many challenges the organization has been facing this last year.
If you're a Wayside Theatre regular you've been with us on an incredible and sometimes scary journey throughout this 50th Anniversary Season. If you're new to the scene we hope you check out our thrilling production of Smoke on the Mountain by a professional theatre company that just a few short months ago could not predict whether or not it would still be in existence in 2012. But we're here and we are going forward with a sense of growing confidence that we haven't had in quite some time.
We're here because our loyal base of supporters has demonstrated incredible support for this "tiny theatre with a big heart." We're here because we have an incredible family of talented artists who believe that their continued collaboration on the productions and educational programs this theatre offers is important to this community. We're here because Wayside Theatre is special.
Late last summer when we announced the Emergency Campaign to raise $90,000 in 45 days those on Wayside Theatre's Board of Directors and staff looked at that campaign as a vote by our community on whether or not the theatre should continue. There was an overwhelming response from our community. Not only did our community vote in the affirmative, they helped us exceed our goal by donating over $106,000, $30,000 of that in the first 4 days of the campaign. Those funds enabled us to pay serious debts that would have seen us close the doors without those contributions. The result of that campaign is that we were able to breathe a little, but it was a short breath as we began production on Wayside Theatre's annual Christmas Show. The World Premiere of Glory Bea! A Shenandoah Christmas Story by Rich Follett and Larry Dahlke was met with enthusiastic audience response and continued to build on the momentum that began growing with the Emergency Campaign.
Concurrent with those efforts we begin a serious discussion with those stepping forward about how we could sustain Wayside Theatre going forward. Those discussions continue on many levels including in the media. Several journalists have taken the organization to task and continue to do so, but in fairness, the criticism looks to the same goal those charged with securing Wayside Theatre's future have: keeping Wayside Theatre alive and vital as a part of this community's cultural life.
As the New Year dawned and work continued we now find Wayside Theatre's prospects improving. For the first time since the world's economy crashed in 2008 we are current with our ongoing obligations. We've announced a stellar line up for our 2012-13 Season that begins in June, and over 50% of our subscribers have already decided to renew their commitment for that exciting season. (As a reference that's on par with years' past.) Equally as important, we're seeing new subscribers deciding to journey with us into the 51st Season.
We are asked each day about our progress. The best description we can give is a simple one. We're making steady and demonstrable progress and feel confident about that progress and our planning. Now that critical operational debts have been paid, we are able to focus again on our long term debt picture as we continue to work with our supporters to stabilize Wayside Theatre's ongoing efforts. (As a reference the theatre's long term debt is secured by the property it owns including the theatre building.)
Are we out of the woods? In the world we live in these days, I'm not sure anyone could realistically say that. But we're poised to turn an important corner this winter and spring if the hard work to build on the hard earned support you and many like you have shown the theatre continues.
And now on to the show. Plays involve people. People to write them, perform them, design them and produce them. While plays chronicle the human condition, those that bring them audiences are also subject the fragility of life and its ups and downs. This is a return to Smoke on the Mountain for us, after a successful production years back. But it is with some new cast members and some returning veterans of the Sanders Family. It was also with a different director as John Healey did the first production so well. So a new dynamic needed to formed. Just as we were getting close to seeing that new dynamic gel in the final week of rehearsal, one of our cast members, Bob Payne, became seriously ill and had to withdraw from the show on Wednesday. For those who will ask, Bob is on his way to recovering and we wish him well with his convalesence.
So, we had to scramble. Fortunately, that's somethign this company does well. Maybe that's out of surviving the last few years. Reaching out to other producers and cast members who have performed this show in other theatres we were quickly able to contact and hire Roger Eaves to come in for the role of Burl, the father of the Sanders Family. He joined us on Friday and with one day of rehearsal we began previews yesterday with a matinee and evening peformance.
Those who have worked at Wayside Theatre know what a journey that preview Saturday is. Shows meet the audience for the afternoon matinee and grow throughout the day and into the evening performance with notes in between. By the end of the night, we know what we have. In this case we met the audience with more than the usual nerves jittering around, but the matinee audience loved the show, and when we met the audience last evening, we, the show, and the audience all arrived at the same destination for a wonderful evening of theatre.
There are many thanks for this to be shared. First and foremost, Roger Eaves is an amazing performer who stepped in to a real challenge with a smile on his face and a lot of love in his heart. The rest of the cast (his on stage family) quickly adopted a new daddy and with a few hours a new dynamic was beginning to unfold. Our staff was amazing all week once we got the news and made sure everything was ready to support the cast going forward.
It is more than appropriate that the title of this post begins with "A Little Faith, a Little Luck, and a Lotta Love." We got lucky hooking up with Roger so quickly. We all had faith in each other, and the tremendous love this group of artists at Wayside Theatre has for this theatre and its place in its community was at the heart of all of our efforts these last few days.
So, to paraphrase a lyric from Smoke on the Mountain, I'll close with this before we go get ready for opening night.
We've had a lot of heartaches, met a lot of grief and woe.
And when we would stumble, then we would humble down,
And there I would say,
We wouldn't take nothing for our journey now.