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Arts & Culture

Trinity Rep fundraising supports community

$18 million capital campaign to fund educational programs, new resident actors

Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Trinity Repertory Company has completed its Theater for Every Generation campaign, which will allow the company to expand its programs. Over six years, the company surpassed its fundraising goal by $100,000.

“There was not a dry eye in the house — it was so moving and so phenomenal,” said Kathy Calnan, director of development for Providence’s Trinity Repertory Company, describing a sold-out production of “A Christmas Carol,” which featured a cast composed entirely of children with autism spectrum disorders.

The show was the culminating project of the Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network, a program designed by the theater’s education programs manager Jordan Butterfield to tap into “the power of drama therapy as a communication tool,” Calnan said. Demand for the program has tripled since its 2010 inception, she added. Thanks to the recent conclusion of Theater for Every Generation, an $18 million capital campaign, it will soon be able to flourish and expand.

The fundraising campaign began in 2008 as a private effort with a goal of $12 million, going public and increasing this goal in 2010. In the 2011 fiscal year, Trinity Rep hired campaign consultants to assist with its efforts, which included multiple events involving the Providence community, such as a gala and semiannual theater tours, Calnan said. As a nonprofit organization, Trinity Rep relies on ticket and concession sales to cover between two-thirds and three-fourths of its operating costs. Over the course of six years, the theater has not only met its fundraising goal, but has surpassed it by more than $100,000, according to a Feb. 20 Trinity Rep press release.

TRAIN is just one example of the many different ways that Trinity Rep plans to use the new money in expansion efforts. The funding has allowed for the hiring of three new resident actors, marking the first addition to the company in several years. The actors, Mia Ellis MFA’12, Charlie Thurston MFA’12 and Rebecca Gibel MFA’10, all graduated from the Brown/Trinity MFA Program.

“Adding company members means they’re with us forever,” said Curt Columbus, artistic director at Trinity Rep. “They get full seasons’ worth of work, three or four shows every year and are part of the planning process going forward. They’re developing their work as playwrights and as directors.”

“Our resident acting company is an important part of who we are,” Calnan said. “We want to expand their professional development in playwriting, teaching and directing.”

Aside from these initiatives, Trinity Rep will allocate the money raised to expansion and maintenance of its facilities and programs. A portion of the funds will support a summer theater camp for underprivileged children. Upgrades to Trinity Rep’s facilities will feature technological improvements, fire code upgrades and a new roof, Calnan said, adding that the company will also launch a new website to foster its online presence. The funds will significantly reduce Trinity Rep’s debt by $3 million, she added.

One of the new Brown MFA hires, Thurston, is in the process of writing a new play.

“I’m proud that what we’re doing is creating challenging theater that still makes audiences think, but that we haven’t, like other theaters around the country, been dumbing down our programming just to make a buck,” Columbus said.

The campaign has also served to bring Trinity Rep national attention. Joe Wilson, Jr., one of the company’s current resident actors, recently received the Theater Communication Group’s prestigious Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, Calnan said. The theater has also managed to attract funding from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, allowing 10 new plays to be workshopped.

The company looks forward to a number of upcoming events, including a party March 9 that will celebrate the campaign’s successful conclusion, as well as its annual beer and wine tasting slated for this month.

Trinity Rep just turned 50 this past year, Calnan said, adding that she hopes the conclusion of this campaign will set the theater up for a great 50 years to come.

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