GLOVERSVILLE – The volunteers who run the Glove Performing Arts Center say the community now has a unique opportunity to support the historic theater.
In a new fundraising campaign called “Discover the Glove,” the family of the Glove’s original owner has agreed to donate $2 for every $1 raised locally, up to $100,000.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to put the theater on a better financial footing,” said Mark Finkle, president of the theater’s Board of Directors.
Last year, the board reached out to Renee Crown, the daughter of the late J. Meyer Schine, who established the Glove back in 1920. She and her husband, Lester Crown, who live in Chicago, agreed to provide the 2-to-1 challenge grant, effectively tripling the money from other donors until Dec. 31.
“I just can’t image that if this community wants this theater they can’t respond to this,” Finkle said this week. “A $50 donation becomes $150 for us.”
Keeping the nearly century-old theater open and running hasn’t been easy. It is expensive to heat -more than $19,000 per year for its auditorium alone – and the renovations and improvements accomplished in recent years have been hard-won accomplishments.
The Glove has had no paid employees since its last professional director, Emily Grant, left the area about five years ago. At that time, the theater was in serious danger of closing, but the theater’s volunteer Board of Directors regrouped and pledged to keep it open and gradually build it back up.
“The arts have struggled everywhere,” Finkle said. “It’s not an easy road.”
But the Glove already has raised about $30,000 in donations that it can apply to the “Discover the Glove” campaign, Finkle said, and the Board of Directors and other volunteers hope their excitement will catch on with others in the community.
“The response from the community is outstanding,” said Richard Samrov, the theater’s volunteer executive director. “They really want to keep this theater here in Gloversville. That makes me very happy.”
Though the campaign offers naming opportunities for major donors – such as plaques on seats and other fixtures for certain dollar amounts -smaller contributions are equally welcome, Finkle said.
“Some people have sent in the $50 donations,” Finkle said. “Wouldn’t it be great to get a thousand $50 donations from people? That’d be a thousand people committed to the theater.”
Finkle said he would like to be able to host more professional actors and touring groups at the Glove, but he says it will always be a welcoming venue for homegrown productions organized by local theater enthusiasts, including its own resident troupe, the Hand in Glove Players. And it will always offer opportunities for young performers to gain experience in front of local audiences, he said.
“We have to be a local venue,” Finkle said.
The theater is dedicated to cultivating its own crop of future performers and patrons, offering classes in music and acting for children on the premises.
“The volunteers here at the Glove Performing Arts Center – I couldn’t praise them more,” said Samrov, who is 74 years old and worked as an usher at the Glove in the 1950s. “We’re all in it for the duration.”
The money raised in the “Discover the Glove” campaign will be invested both in the infrastructure of the theater and future programming, Finkle said. The last major investment of donated funds went into wiring, he said – it was necessary, but it wasn’t highly visible.
“I think we need to show something physical in the building so people can say, ‘Oh, something’s happening there,'” he said.
The theater has received new auditorium-style seats, and installing them is one of the short-term goals, along with fixing a section of the roof and renovating the men’s bathroom.
Samrov said the Glove is experiencing a “renaissance.” Audiences for theatrical productions have grown larger and more enthusiastic in the last few years. Whereas shows four or five years ago were selling fewer than 50 tickets per night, more recent shows – such as last year’s “Annie” – brought audiences of 100 to 200 people each night. The recent production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a financial success, costing $5,000 to produce and bringing in $12,000 at the box office.
Also last year, the Glove presented a grant-funded educational play about the genocide in Darfur. The play was “magnificent,” Finkle said, and about a thousand students from five different school districts came to see it. He said the Glove hopes to present another such play for school groups in the future.
Samrov said the Theatre Historical Society of America has expressed an interest in hosting its annual meeting at the Glove this year, which would be a big feather in its cap and bring new visitors to Gloversville.
“That’s a big deal for us,” Finkle said. He hopes this year’s fundraising campaign will be a “springboard” to further community investment in the Glove’s future as a cultural and economic hub for downtown Gloversville.
“We’re more determined now than we every have been before,” Samrov said. “We’re determined that we cannot waste this gem.”
On Friday night, the theater hosted a cabaret-style “Main Street Showcase” performance intended to raise money for the Hand in Glove Players’ upcoming production of “Into the Woods,” which will open March 8 for a run of six performances.
On Feb. 14, 15 and 16, the Glove will present a dinner-theater production of the Neil Simon comedy “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers.”
For the full 2013 production schedule at the Glove, see www.glovetheatre.org.
Features Editor Bill Ackerbauer can be reached at email@example.com.