EVERETT — Almost exactly one year ago, the pandemic dropped the curtain on Village Theatre’s production of “She Loves Me.”
Between show cancellations and programming reductions due to COVID-19 within the last year, Village’s shutdown has resulted in an 80% loss in revenue.
The theater company had to lay off or furlough 176 employees to mitigate its losses. Nineteen staffers are working reduced hours and 10 are operating on salaries reduced by 10 to 30%, with higher-paid positions taking larger percentage pay cuts.
But the show will go on, thanks to an anonymous donor who gave Village $3 million to help it recover from the pandemic.
“This is the largest single gift that Village Theatre has received in its 42-year history,” Village Theatre’s Director of Advancement Frank Stilwagner said. “Gifts like this are transformative; they are very impactful and we are very, very grateful for it.”
At $3 million, the gift is just a fraction of Village Theatre’s operating budget of $14.5 million before COVID-19 hit.
“It’s not a silver bullet, it doesn’t fix everything, but it puts us on a stronger path to reopening,” Stilwagner said.
Village did not disclose the donor’s identity, but said in a press release that the person “has shown philanthropic leadership in the performing arts at large for more than 30 years.”
The press release includes a statement from the donor: “Investments in the performing arts are a powerful means of fostering inclusion, healing and inspiration. Village Theatre provides a place for people from different cultures, ideas and walks of life to unite through beautiful imagery, music, movement and compelling stories.”
Stilwagner said the donor hopes to inspire others to make an investment in Village Theatre’s future.
“The donor didn’t do it to be like, ‘OK, here, you’ve met your goal, you’re all good,’” he said. “Their intent is to inspire others to give to sustain Village Theatre as we emerge from the pandemic. We would be thrilled to have donors match the $3 million. That would be over and above our annual fundraising goal.”
As such, Village Theater continues to fundraise and look to the community for support that could open the curtain again. If all 18,000 subscribers donated $167, or if all 210,000 ticket holders per season donated $14.30, the $3 million gift would be matched.
Although there still lot of uncertainty as to when and how theaters will reopen in the state, thanks to the $3 million donation, Village Theatre is now planning to bring back some of its production staff for a four-show 2022 season. That lineup is scheduled to be announced in April.
In Phase 3, effective March 22, theaters will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity or a maximum 400 ticket holders, whichever is lower. (There are 512 seats at the Everett Performing Arts Center.) But it takes time to put on a Village Theatre production.
“It takes about a year for us to open a show on stage, and so there’s a lot of work to do,” Stilwagner said. “But we have a tiered plan to start to bring people back, and receiving a gift such as this helps us move forward instead of always wondering about the bottom line.”
The Everett Performing Arts Center may be shuttered, but its Village Originals and Village KidStage programs are still up and running.
Village Originals has supported the development of more than 150 new musicals, including “Next to Normal,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “It Shoulda Been You,” “Desperate Measures” and “Lizzie.” Employees are preparing for the next Festival of New Musicals, scheduled for later this year.
Village KidStage — which has served 2,736 students within the last year — moved online with Zoom classes and camps for youth ages 4 to 20. A limited number of in-person classes also will be offered in April and May. Go to www.villagekidstage.org for more information.
In addition, Village recently launched the new NextStage and Northwest Creator Residency programs.
NextStage is a free online program that provides classes, resources and support for midcareer artists. The Zoom training program, which has served 165 so far, is meant to help artists not only get a theater job when they’re available again but to thrive in their careers. Go to www.villagetheatre.org/mainstage/nextstage-artist-professional-development for more information.
The Northwest Creators Residency program is meant to attract BIPOC artists willing to work on any element of a new Northwest musical. Twelve residencies with a variety of theater backgrounds were selected for the 2020-2021 season. Each artist receives a $1,000 stipend.
Want to donate to Village Theatre? Go to www.villagetheatre.org and click the “donate” button, call the box office at 425-392-2202 or email email@example.com to help the theater company match its $3 million gift.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; @sarabruestle.