Matching Pledge Offered to Jumpstart Fundraising for Winni Playhouse Construction in Meredith

The Winnipesaukee Playhouse, the Lakes Region's year-round professional and community theatre, has long been planning a move to a permanent theatre complex in Meredith. Recently, two anonymous Playhouse supporters who have been subscribers to the summer professional season have come forward to get the Capital Campaign going with a generous matching pledge of up to $1 million. The Playhouse must raise the $1 million matching funds by the end of 2011 to receive the full match. According to Bryan Halperin, Executive Director of The Playhouse, "We are extremely grateful to these donors for coming forward with their generous offer. It is gratifying to know that what we do at The Playhouse has inspired people in the community to make this sort of contribution towards the organization's growth and future. We hope their pledge will inspire others to get involved."

If you drove on Reservoir Road in Meredith this fall, you may have noticed large trucks digging trenches and moving mounds of earth and pavement along the road to the Annalee campus. This construction is part of Phase One of the Winnipesaukee Playhouse's effort to build the Lake Regions' first Performing Arts Complex. This complex will house its performances, camps, workshops, and classes for all to enjoy year-round. Funding is already in place for Phase One and this phase is expected to be complete this coming spring.

Phase Two is where the matching challenge comes into play and involves converting the former Annalee Gift Shop into the new Winni Playhouse Main Stage Theatre. The theatre is being designed to maintain, as much as possible, the intimacy that audience members have come to love from The Playhouse. Benefits are increased amenities and behind-the-scenes support spaces that will allow The Playhouse to expand its programming capabilities. Besides a proper lobby space, more bathrooms, better heating and cooling systems, the campus will have nature trails and outdoor spaces that will make attending a Playhouse production an even better experience for the community.

When complete the theatre will hold 182 seats, an increase of just under 100 from the theatre's current capacity at the Weirs. "This past summer we discovered that the current Playhouse no longer has enough seats to accommodate the interest of Lakes Region locals and visitors for our summer shows," says Halperin. Halperin cites the last two shows of the 2009 season, Sleuth and Driving Miss Daisy, as evidence. "Both shows sold to nearly 100% capacity and we turned away several hundred people. For an organization that relies on ticket sales to fund most of its operations, not being able to accommodate these people is a huge problem."

Performances will continue at the Weirs location until Phase Two is complete. "If we raise enough to meet our goals, including the match, we could possibly be at our new site in two years," according to Halperin. "In the meantime, we hope everyone will continue to enjoy our performances in the Weirs." Once Phase Two is completed, all operations of The Playhouse will be able to move over to the Meredith campus.

Van McLeod, NH Commissioner of Cultural Resources, was very impressed after a recent tour of the site. According to McLeod, "the opportunity The Winni Playhouse has in Meredith is enormous and unique. No other theatre in the State has the physical resources on one site and the campus atmosphere will enhance The Playhouse's ability to provide not only first rate performances but continue to expand the educational component which is a major benefit to the greater Lakes Region community. The Lakes Region is a destination, and The Playhouse campus will become a top destination in itself and help draw people from all over to Central New Hampshire. Their plans are visionary and will make a real difference in the lives
of people who live here and visit here."

Phase Three consists of turning the former Annalee Museum into a smaller Black Box theatre similar in scale to The Playhouse's Weirs facility. This space will be used for summer children's theatre and camps, and act as a second space for community and youth theatre productions during the winter. The estimate for this phase is approximately $500,000.

It is an exciting time to be part of The Playhouse! The Board of Trustees has committed to the success of the Capital Campaign and looks forward to more people becoming involved in the future growth of The Playhouse. Says Halperin, "We're thrilled that The Playhouse has become an important part of Arts and Culture in the Lakes Region in only 6 years. We can't wait to see what the next 6 years will hold."

Please contact The Playhouse for more information on how you can get involved in the Capital Campaign. And up next at The Playhouse this February - The Laramie Project, a powerful drama presented by the Winni Players, the Community Theatre branch of The Playhouse.

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