MIDDLETOWN, VA- The 51-year-old Wayside Theatre in Middletown is Northern Virginia's second oldest professional theater. In recent years, it has run into financial trouble and is now in a fundraising emergency.
"We've had a pretty rough go of it since the economy collapsed in 2008," says the theater's Artistic Director, Warner Crocker. "This past fall and Christmas, ticket sales were down by about 30-percent, and our annual fundraising campaign was down by about 70-percent."
Last year, the theater had similar money trouble, but says 700 community members raised more than $100,000 to save it. This year, they haven't had the same support and are in debt from renovations.
"Our challenge is to convince people in our region that in order to have quality professional theater, live professional entertainment, and the wonderful education programs that we do, that we need that level of support each and every year," Crocker says.
They say if they don't raise $90,000 in the next 90 days, the theater can not go forward with the production season.
The Wayside management says they set a tight deadline because they want the community to know their donation needs are urgent. They say ticket sales alone do not cover the costs of operation.
"Our ticket sales only cover the cost of each first act that we do here at Wayside Theatre," Crocker says. "We have a number of expenses that people don't see when they come to see the show. We have to house the actors who come here to the Northern Shenandoah Valley to perform for them. We pay for their transportation."
The Wayside cut its budget over the years from $900,000 a year to less than $700,000, and staff has decreased to 12 people during show time. They're hoping the cuts will end and the legacy can live on.
"This is a 51-year old institution that has provided a lot of entertainment for a lot of people, for all of those 51 years." Crocker says. "It's provided a lot of jobs for a lot people during those 51 years and we want to see this organization survive for another 51 years."