Fort Mill Community Playhouse is trying to raise $1 million for a new home, and needs the community’s help to get there. What better way than to host a singing campaign pledge drive?
More than 140 people attended Campaign Cocktails at the Dairy Barn Aug. 29, which featured songs and singers from past performances and included a local history of the Playhouse, written by author Mignon Ballard and MC’d by Mike Collins, host of Charlotte Talks on public radio station WFAE.
“Theater is good for the soul,” actor Karen Lee told the full banquet room. “It’s good for the community. It unites us. It helps us to see we have more in common than we do differences.”
Lee recalled her entrance into the theater world with the acceptance of a role at the FMCP. She said she discovered her love of performing arts at an older age than most. “It wasn’t something I had done all my life,” she said. “That was the beginning of a love story.”
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The nonprofit acting group’s current rental home, at 220 Main Street, will only host six actors on its small stage, with an audience capacity of 67. The new space, at 108 Spratt Street (currently the home of eSale Rugs), would offer a bigger stage and an audience of 200. The owner has agreed to hold the $1 million price for the Playhouse until the end of the year.
A permanent home would be a big step for the group that was started under a tent at the Leroy Springs Complex in 1980. The actors have also been housed at Fort Mill High School and in a Leroy Springs-owned building on Banks Street. About a year and a half ago, they moved to Main Street.
Bigger stage, more storage
“The current building would be perfect — if it was only twice the size,” said Joyce Sullivan, a member of the FMCP Board of Directors and a costume designer for more than 20 years.
In addition to a larger audience, a new space would allow for desperately needed storage for costumes, props and set materials, Sullivan said. The costumes and props currently are now housed upstairs in their rental building; Due to space constraints, many items had to be discarded when the group moved to Main Street. Set pieces are kept in a container on private property.
In addition to raising money, Playhouse members hosted Campaign Cocktails as a way to introduce Fort Mill newcomers to the stage.
“A lot of new residents don’t know about us, and we don’t know if it’s just because they turn to go to Charlotte for theater and don’t realize there’s one here,” Sullivan said.
“It’s a great outlet; If you ever thought you wanted to be on stage, it’s a great place to go and try it out,” she said.
Live theater: ‘Unusual these days’
The acting group currently hosts four plays a year. In its new home, the Playhouse will return to hosting dinner theater and youth productions, said Board of Directors President Martha Ferguson.
Youth productions can accommodate up to 20 children and are important in today’s society, Ferguson said.
“You see everybody on their phones now. Live theater is unusual these days,” she said. “To get those kids up on stage and see them blossom, it gives them confidence. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Ferguson said the draw is not just for children, but adult actors and audience members as well.
“If we can get you to the theater one time, you will be back,” she said.
About $21,000 was donated or pledged at Campaign Cocktails. In total, a little more than $240,000 has been raised toward the $1 million goal.
“We’ve looked for a home for 2 1/2 years,” Ferguson said. “We never expected to need this much money, but that is what Fort Mill has become.”
Melissa Oyler @melissaoyler
Want to donate?
Fort Mill Community Playhouse is nonprofit, so donations are tax deductible. Donors have five years to pay pledge. In addition to one-time or annual pledges, opportunities include naming rights, ranging from a $250 donation that includes a name on a chair to a $250,000 donation that includes a name on the building.
Donate online: fortmillcommunityplayhouse.org/donations.php
Mail your donation:
PO Box 354
Fort Mill, SC 29716
Questions: Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 803-548-8102
Want to see a play?
There are two remaining plays in 2017:
Ghost of a Chance: Sept. 8-10, 15-17, 22-24
I Do! I Do!: Nov. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19
For details and tickets, go to fortmillcommunityplayhouse.org