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Wednesday, 26 March 2014 13:32

On with the show

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fr hartstageThough the process has been long, Steven Lloyd is beginning to see the fruits of his labor.

“I sometimes feel like I’ve pushed a big boulder up a hill and it’ll fall backwards,” he said. “But, the momentum is still going. We’re a proven, successful theatre, and this is going to happen.”

 

Lloyd is the executive director of the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville. His proverbial “boulder” is the construction of a second stage facility.

The flagship main stage theater is 11,000 square feet with 250 seats. The second venue is planned to be 6,000 square feet, which would hold between 150 to 180 attendees, depending on what’s being presented.

“The only solution for our ability to grow is to have a second performance space,” Lloyd said. “Everything is growing at a level now where it can be secured for the future.”

The possibilities range from small plays to dinner theater, drama camps to acting classes, cabaret to wedding receptions. It seems the avenues of potential are endless. 

Perhaps most importantly, the second theater will allow productions to run back to back. Actors and set crews will have a place to prepare one show while another is running on the main stage.

It’s got a daunting construction price tag of $1.2 million, however. Lloyd said over $670,000 has already been raised, with an end-of-year fundraising goal set at putting that total over $900,000.

“We’re expecting to start construction sometime in the next few weeks,” he said.

Architecture blueprints are done, contractors’ bids are rolling in, and permits are in the final stages.

Rather than wait until the total price tag is raised, the theater will take out a construction loan — a testament to its success and something only the most solid entities could pull off in today’s world of tight credit.

“All of those things are in process, and when they dovetail together, we’ll start digging,” Lloyd said.

 

Backyard investment

With its most loyal patrons already tapped for donations, the final stage of the fundraising campaign could get harder, however.

HART has asked the Haywood County commissioners and Waynesville town board for money for the new theater building.

“It’s really just asking them to have some buy-in here,” Lloyd said. “Twenty years ago we came in front of them and they helped us, and we were able to use those funds for a lot of things in the theatre.”

HART is asking the town and county for $25,000 each. He appeared before county commissioners last week and the town board this week.

Specifically the money would be used for the amenities needed inside the new facility.

“We waited until we had most of the funds in hand so we weren’t asking them for money to make sure it would happen. Instead, we said we want them to be a player in this, too,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd noted he is well aware that both the county and town are already stretched thin for funds. But, he sees the investment into HART as a worthwhile endeavor. Currently, the theatre has an economic impact on Haywood County of around $2.4 million per year. Ticket sales in 2013 were over 10,000 for the main stage and 2,000 for the black box studio. And with a new facility, those numbers could potentially double.

“This new facility will expand what we do, have more people involved, and will have a greater footprint for the arts in Haywood County,” said John Highsmith, a board member at HART. “This just makes Haywood a better place to live all the way around, with the economical impact, cultural opportunities and bringing in something to better the county as a whole.”

Highsmith’s enthusiasm doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

“It will definitely be an addition to Waynesville and Haywood. I’m really happy they’re choosing to expand,” said Waynesville Alderman Wells Greeley. “I think our history proves out that our board has been active in supporting HART.”

Greeley added that HART gives a sense of community to Waynesville, something that needs to be cherished, nurtured and perpetuated.

“What makes a sense of community?” he said. “It’s services by the town, amenities that make people want to live here — shopping, cultural. It is a tough time to be asking for funds, but this will make us a better, more well-rounded community.”

Those positive sentiments were also echoed by Haywood County Commissioner Mark Swanger.

“Without question, HART is an asset to our community’s economy and cultural aspects,” he said. “But, as far as whether or not the county will appropriate funds, I make it a point to not make any determinations until we all have looked at it and go through the decision process.”

 

Audience support

Lloyd pointed out the fate of the new facility was in the hands of the audience itself, who are contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the second theater a doable project. 

“The majority of the money is people giving smaller amounts, but we’ve got several hundred donors,” he said. “It gives you a sense of confidence to be successful in what we’re trying to do. I’ve been here for 23 years, so it makes me feel that they have faith and they trust me to guide the theatre down the right path. We’ve never had a deficit, never had a losing season. We’re not the biggest theatre, but we’ve succeeded in everything we’ve put on and done.”

And alongside those innumerable donations are the more-than-generous contributions by Daniel and Belle Fangmeyer and John and Susie Harmon. In honor of their $200,000 donation to HART, the new theatre will be named after the Fangmeyers, with the bistro café in the facility being called “Harmon’s Den.”

“It’s these substantial donations that have made it possible for us to really move forward,” Lloyd said.

For HART members who have donated and are in the “Producer’s Circle” ($1,000+) and above, Lloyd said there will be a special string of events at the theatre this July to thank those patrons. The two-week long celebration will feature renowned Broadway actor Terrence Mann, who will lead the events.

Lloyd expects to hear back from the town and county on funds sometime in June.

“It is a good investment, and the argument I’m putting forward to the town and county is that we’re asking you to invest in a facility that will not only benefit us,” Lloyd said, “but also a lot of people — it will truly change the dynamic of who we are.”

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