Fairfield theater bid to reach underprivileged near deadline
The big-name concerts the Fairfield Theatre Company has put on at Stage One in Fairfield and The Klein in Bridgeport have attracted mostly suburban patrons who can afford the ticket prices.
But if the company can raise nearly $30,000 in the next four days, it can take full advantage of a grant that would fatten its paper-thin budget and extend arts programs to inner-city children, senior citizens, people with learning disabilities and others.
Two anonymous donors have pledged up to $100,000 to match donations in the nonprofit FTC's waning fundraising drive. But the sweetheart deal ends on Valentines Day -- Monday -- and at last count, the company has raised just a little more than $70,000.
It has long been the company's goal to bring into the theater the underprivileged and the underserved, said Brad Purcell, president of the FTC board of directors. If it can take full advantage of the grant, the company would open its doors to underprivileged Bridgeport children, provide music therapy for autistic children and follow through on several other initiatives that are in the works.
"People with means will always find their way to art," said Eileen O'Reilly, FTC's managing director.
More InformationHow to contribute The Fairfield Theatre Company at last count needed to raise nearly $30,000 by Monday to take full benefit of a matching grant. Here's how to contribute: By phone: 203-259-1036 Online: www.fairfieldtheatre.org In person: FTC box office, 70 Sanford St., noon to 5 p.m., seven days a week. By mail: Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford St., Fairfield CT 06824.
"But it's important to bring everyone to art, because it's such a life-enhancing experience. It opens up their lives to so many possibilities," she said. "You can change a child's life by handing them an instrument, so for FTC, as a performing arts organization, it is essential to offer this programming.
Less than 80 percent of the nonprofit's operating budget comes from ticket sales, Purcell said, so offering programs that cost more than they took in has been difficult, at best.
But that will change -- even more so with a late boost from the community, he said.
O'Reilly said the money would help to create a "financial safety net for the organization."
When the FTC first opened on Sanford Street a decade ago, it staged plays, not concerts. But drama didn't attract big enough audiences, and the theater went dark for some time.
So to revive the company and keep it afloat, its leaders have focused on well-known acts that attract paying crowds. But FTC's board has long wanted to reach those who can't afford tickets to big-name events, Purcell said.
"On average, we put on two to two-and-a-half shows a week," said Purcell, "So there's a lot of opportunity to use our spare capacity with the proper funding. There's a lot of daytime capability. Even the weeks we do four shows a week, we're only open 12 hours the entire week."
In March, FTC will launch "Saturday Kids at FTC," a program of professional music instruction for Bridgeport Public Schools students. Workshops in strings and guitars and in piano are planned, along with a collaborative performance workshop in which young musicians will have instruction in playing along with one another.
The infusion of new money also will allow FTC to expand its audience. O'Reilly said the FTC wants to bring in the widest, most diverse audience possible -- from kids to seniors.
Purcell added that the typical patron tends to be between 40 and 60 years old, and they come out to see a lot of the older acts that had great success in the '70s and '80s.
"There's an opportunity to bring in a younger audience with some performances that appeal to them," he said.
"We don't do as much as we would like to be doing," said Purcell. "We would like to supplement the music with something more nonprofit oriented."
He added, "We want to make FTC as relevant to the community as possible."
One incentive for donors is that anyone who donates $50 or more will become an FTC member, allowing discounts and access to tickets before they are available to the public.