Bethesda, Maryland's Imagination Stage Names its Building after Benefactors Who Retired its Debt
Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, Maryland, operates what its Web site describes as "a full-spectrum theatre arts organization, with theatre productions by professional actors and artists." It serves almost 120,000 children and their families each year through productions, classes, and camps, which target both able-bodied children and children with various types of disabilities. The organization also conducts arts-integration professional development training for teachers.
On Saturday evening, November 23, 2013, in an outdoor ceremony punctuated by chattering teeth from the raw wind, Imagination Stage named its building in honor of the benefactors who donated the largest single amount in the history of the organization, Carol Trawick and her late husband, Jim.
When Bonnie Fogel, now Imagination Stage's executive director, founded what was then the Bethesda Academy for Performing Arts (BAPA) in 1979, it taught seventeen students in a rented elementary school classroom. By 1992, BAPA was able to open a professional children's theater at the White Flint Mall.
Moving into the current facility in 2003 necessitated raising about $30-million, some of which the state and county provided. By 2008, however, public funding had dried up because of the recession; even in wealthy Montgomery County - eleventh in the United States in median household income - money was tight. Enter Carol Trawick, an arts aficionado and former educator, who had already been instrumental in helping Imagination Stage grow. At the organization's 30th anniversary gala in the fall of 2009, Mrs. Trawick volunteered to donate $2.5-million over ten years to retire the building's debt. At the time, founder Bonnie Fogel described the donation as "a magnificent gesture to the families in our community," which "ensures the sustainability of Imagination Stage."
During the building dedication, Mrs. Trawick spoke passionately about the importance of the arts in children's education, echoing her 2009 comments, in which she praised Imagination Stage's mission "to bring a wonderful light to children's lives - the arts, and all of the energy and creativity that it sparks within them."
In addition to the speeches, including one by county executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett, the building dedication ceremony included a song and dance performance of "Magic to Do," from Pippin, by twelve Imagination Stage students. Three of them, girls aged 11, 13, and 14, the last an Amanda Seyfried lookalike, all said they hope to become professionals one day. They wouldn't be the first Imagination Stage students to make the transition - three others appeared in the HBO movie Game Change, about the 2008 Republican presidential campaign.
Despite the evident pride on the part of Imagination Stage that some of its students have succeeded in becoming professional actors, the organization targets its efforts towards average children whose exposure to the performing arts can transform their everyday lives. As Carol Trawick said, "Please remember that art has the power to change lives."
Imagination Stage's Web site is www.ImaginationStage.org .
Photo credits: Jay Jarvis