An Open Letter to Omaha
by Daena Schweiger
First, thank you for taking the time to read this. I debated long and hard before doing this. It may not help. It may, in the end, not be a good thing. But it comes from the heart. If I didn’t feel as I did, I would keep my thoughts to myself. And these are MY THOUGHTS. Mine alone. Want to be clear about that.
Okay. Let’s get real.
The reality is SNAP! Productions and The Shelterbelt Theatre need your help if we are to find a home in 2020. If we don’t find a home in 2020, that’s it. No more. We will have given it our best shot for two years. The longer we stay away the harder it is to come back. We had a shot at a space a year ago. A legit shot. And we lost it. Not because of anything we did or did not do. We lost it because the landlord walked away at the 11th hour. Literally.
We have searched high and low for a space that meets updated code requirements that a 25 year grandfathered status no longer affords us. Finding a space that had things that we ABSOLUTELY NEED – ADA bathrooms, HVAC system – at a rent price that was at a level we could afford is a daunting task.
We looked at gutted spaces but other building codes kept us at bay, not to mention a hefty price tag to add those absolute needs that our former space didn’t have, and didn’t require. 2019 was as depressing as 2018 when it came to finding what we needed.
Okay. Let’s get more real. *SPOILER ALERT *
We have a space. Some of you out there know about this. Despite the fact that the boards were sworn to secrecy. So, it’s not truly a spoiler. We have a space. Well, technically it’s not OURS. YET. But we have one. All we need to do is sign a Letter of Intent. It has everything we need – ADA bathrooms, HVAC systems, a PARKING LOT… everything you could want in a theatre… except… well, a theatre space in the space.
And therein lies the rub.
We need to renovate the space to make it a theatre. It’s move in ready. Except we need to make a theatre. And a rehearsal space. And a green-room. And the cost to do those renovations are a lot. How much? High five-figure to low six-figure depending on what we determine are high / low needs vs wants. It’s the difference between a wall separating a rehearsal space and curtains, light trees vs a light grid, wooden platforms or flex seating.
Those numbers are for a move-in ready space that will provide our patrons with a serviceable theatre space with upgraded amenities.
SIGN. THE. LEASE. You say. We do too. But the funding…
Both theatres have skin in the game. But, we need some assurances from our community that you will help with the rest. Yep, we’re working out the details for a capital campaign. We’re doing this the right way.
But, we survived for 25 years through grants, ticket sales and donations. Fundraising will take time for us. And time is something we don’t have.
We can’t sign a letter of intent unless we know how much we can put into renovations. We can’t announce the location because we don’t have a signed letter of intent. We can’t fundraise until we announce a location and sign a Letter of Intent.
You see a pattern here? A chicken-egg scenario.
So, there it is. That’s the scenario both theatres are dealing with as I type this.
Many of you have spoken to members of both theatres lamenting the loss in the community. We feel it too. 8 productions lost. No place for actors, playwrights, directors, designers to cut their teeth. No place to produce new works or produce works that mirror the changing climate in our communities.
We need sustained financial support from you to make this a reality in 2020.
We lost a space a year ago. Please help us to keep from losing what may well be our last shot.
How Can You Help?
Make a 5 year commitment to become a rent sponsor for one of the theatres. 5 years at whatever level you can contribute. Our suggestion is between $500 – $2,000 each year for 5 years. Why a rent sponsor? A Rent sponsor allows us to build our audience without worrying about paying the rent and build a rent account to draw from year 6 on so that we’re always working ahead of the game.
“GET US OFF THE GROUND” DONATIONS
Help us get to the point where we can effectively run a capital campaign. 20 people making a donation pledge of $5,000 or more would help us secure the renovations we need to sign the letter of intent and move us into the space so we may begin producing again. 40 people making a $2,000 pledge or more would help us secure the renovations we need. 60 people… well, you get the idea.
If you belong to a company willing to provide us with a matching gift, please have them contact me.
That’s it. That’s the pitch.
I am passionate (to a fault) about these two spaces. I have been on both boards, cut my teeth doing productions at both theatres, and am feeling all the feels now that they are gone. I felt like I needed to address the elephant in the room after two years.
I have no development background. Don’t claim to. I don’t believe this will hurt our chances. I’m gambling it will help. If nothing else, at least you’ll understand that we’ve actually been trying to do SOMETHING to keep it going.
If you can help, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me reiterate – while I once served as a board member for Shelterbelt, and am at present a board member for SNAP! Productions, I am not speaking as a board member. I am speaking as a playwright, an actor, a stage director, a lighting designer, and a box office volunteer. These theatres lasted for 25 years before losing their space through no fault of their own. We need these two theatres to survive. And we need your help, and the help of others you may know, to help get us up and running so we can move forward for the next 25 years.