Beckwith Theatre hosting donation drive throughout 2016 season

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, April 20, 2016

(Leader file photo)

(Leader file photo)

Three years ago, patrons and former players of Dowagiac’s community theater were asked to give a little bit to ensure the curtains at the Beckwith Theatre Company wouldn’t close for the last time.

In response, the community told them the show must go on.

The theater managed to raise $25,000 worth of donations from fans living in Dowagiac and beyond that year — more than enough to keep the lights on and the comedy and pathos chugging along onstage.

“Frankly, we were about to close the doors,” said Richard Frantz, treasurer of the Beckwith Board of Directors. “We were quite desperate at the time — and people came through for us.”

As part of that fundraiser, organizers promised to not reach out for more donations for another three years, Frantz said.

With the successful premiere of the 2016 season, Beckwith volunteers are living up to their word, and again are requesting that the community chip in to help keep the theater going.

Over the next several months, the theater will be looking to raise $30,000, which will go toward paying for the organization’s operations for the next several years, Frantz said.

“We are in a little better financial shape now, but we do need more funding than what we have right now,” Frantz said.

While the actors, directors and other staff members who produce shows at the downtown theater house do so without pay, there are still heavy costs associated with each production, including paying for the printing of posters and programs, set construction, royalty fees for the scripts and supplies for receptions, Frantz said. On top of that, the theater board is also responsible for keeping up payments on utilities and maintenance of the historic theater house.

According to the treasurer, a typical play costs the theater $2,500, while a musical can run upwards of $6,000.

While the theater receives revenue from ticket sales, advertising and donations, these costs usually only allow the theater to break even on productions and don’t cover other costs, Frantz said.

“The reality is we need to raise money again,” Frantz said. “No one wants to ask for money, but it’s just what we have to do.”

Since kicking off the fundraiser with the opening of the theater’s first show of the year, “Harvey,” earlier this month, organizers have received around $600 worth of donations, from patrons living in Dowagiac, Niles, South Bend and St. Joseph. On top of that, an online donation drive through has generated an additional $1,500 worth of funding.

In addition to giving people in the community a venue for live entertainment, Beckwith also opens the doors for aspiring actors to get their feet wet — in fact, several actors who got their start at Beckwith have continued to pursue a career in show business, working for TV productions or even in the bright lights of Broadway, Frantz said.

“People do understand our value to the community,” Frantz said. “Even people who don’t come to the plays realize the value a community theater adds. We think we provide a service to everyone.”

People can donate to the campaign through the end of Beckwith season on Nov. 20. Donations can be mailed to PO Box 882, Dowagiac, MI 49047, or can be arranged by calling the theater at 782-7653. People can donate online at–4