Wayside Theatre in Middletown is celebrating its 50th season, but needs emergency donations to see a 51st.
Courtesy of Wayside Theatre
Wayside Theatre in Middletown
Having grown up a train ride from New York City, I was exposed to the Great White Way—the Theatre District on Broadway—and its phenomenal showmanship. As long as I can remember I’ve reveled in the powerful performances of others and have been inspired by stories well told.
After we moved to Virginia, I must admit, I missed the bustle and glow, the hustle and flow of “The City”...and its theater. A lot has changed in a relatively short period of time, and, like game-day seats, Broadway shows used to be much more affordable, and therefore, accessible. We embraced Washington theater, of course, but more conveniently, I can remember seeing many great shows in Middletown (A Few Good Men stands out) at the charming Wayside Theatre, the second oldest professional theater in the state, now in its 50th season.
Professional theater in smaller towns is a harder sell due to its limited reach, despite tourism. For example, Mill Mountain Theater in Roanoke was forced to cease production for a time (after the 2008 financial crisis) due to financial hardship and subsequent restructuring.
Wayside has experienced the Catch-22 of how to program a successful season. Season subscribers and benefactors tend to want more eclectic, challenging fare, yet the more commercially viable shows generate more individual ticket sales. Considering one show does not a season make, how does a theater please everyone and consistently fill the seats? Most theaters rely on their benefactors and season subscribers to fund their operating budgets. Theaters are then better able to cater to the donors’ tastes. However, when those folks suffer and expendable income diminishes, the domino effect affects.
Wayside Theatre (a not-for-profit) is aiming to reach $90,000 in donations to pay off its short-term debt, through an emergency campaign. While this immediate goal is not the panacea for Wayside’s challenges—according to WaysideTheatre.org the total debt is $1.1 million—but will offer them a reprieve and a chance to return to the black. So far the emergency campaign has raised over $70,000, but needs to hit that $90,000 mark by October 10 to keep professional theater alive in Middletown.
Professional theater is something to be savored and supported. It enriches its communities and rewards the efforts of its experienced, talented cast and crew. Please support the professional arts in the Shenandoah Valley. Vote with your dollar and declare their value today.
UPDATE: Wayside Theatre's emergency campaign raised over $100,000 and the theatre remains open for the foreseeable future.