An outpouring of support for Georgia Shakespeare appeared likely to save the theater group for another season, the theater’s artistic director says.
With Georgia Shakespeare in financial trouble, Producing Artistic Director Richard Garner decided earlier this month to make a bold plea. He asked friends of the organization to help raise $150,000 in just one week to keep the struggling theater company alive.
In an open letter posted on the group’s website, Garner said the theater needed to raise the money by Sept. 23 in order to keep the doors open for its scheduled production of “The Glass Menagerie.”
“The response has been overwhelming,” Garner said.
Garner said there have been 700 responses to his letter in just a few days. They have ranged from personal checks for $1,000 to $30 in cash from an 8-year-old who wanted to give her birthday money to the cause. Counting donations that were coming in by mail, the group’s website and a fundraising event, Garner said on Sept. 20 that about $130,000 had been raised.
“I think we will have safely gone past this first goal,” Garner said.
The lights will stay on and “The Glass Menagerie” will begin Oct. 6 as scheduled, he said, but the challenge is not yet over.
The second goal is to raise another $350,000 by the end of the year. But Garner said the response Georgia Shakespeare has received so far makes him feel very positive about the larger fundraising campaign.
“When people take the time to send you those notes, it makes you feel that what you’re doing makes a difference in the community,” Garner said. “For them to have such an enthusiastic and heartfelt response means we can go out with confidence to the rest of the community. If we’re not important to our closest friends, we’re certainly not in a position to go out broader.”
Garner said like many other nonprofits, Georgia Shakespeare has struggled during the recession.
“We’ve been working sort of quietly to deal with the financial stress of the past three years,” Garner said. “We ended up sort of out of all other options and faced the grim reality that we couldn’t make it past a couple weeks making payroll and putting on our fall production.”
Garner said some gifts from foundations and corporations are planned to come at the end of the year, but during the summer, the organization was getting by week to week.
“The whole week leading up to making this decision and launching this campaign, that was really, really stressful,” Garner said.
He said Georgia Shakespeare is grateful for the donations and continues to work hard to scale back and cut costs to stay on solid financial ground.
Garner said it’s important that the organization stays on the right track from here on out, because he won’t ask supporters for help like this again.
“I think a company only gets one of these in a lifetime,” he said.