WILKES-BARRE — Since its kick-off in mid-December, the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s capital campaign has raised about $100,000.
The campaign is part of its goal of raising $1 million for improvements by its 100th birthday in 2022, said development director Walter Mitchell.
An anonymous donor promised to match — dollar for dollar — up to $200,000 donated by Dec. 31. The match also includes pledges received by the end of the year, which are to be satisfied by July 31, and the campaign continues into 2018.
In addition, the city has sponsored the North Main Street theater’s application for a $200,000 state grant, Mitchell said.
Money raised will go toward renovations, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
“We never had air conditioning in this building. So the fact that we’re actually going to have air conditioning by the fall of 2018 is extremely exciting,” Mitchell said. “It’s like a sauna (there) in August.”
Mitchell said the theater is also planning for a new sound system, a new lighting system, new scenery, lowering the ceiling and adding to the rear of the building. Mitchell’s vision includes a separate area for things like scene building and costume storage.
“We’ve made terrific progress for an organization that has never had a significant capital campaign in its 96-year history. And that we’re off to such a terrific start … I can’t help but be very excited about it,” he said.
Donning the wig from his role as Fezziwig in the theater’s recent production of “A Christmas Carol,” Mitchell attended the Dec. 15 campaign reception in festive style, and he was joined by costumed Wilkes-Barre City Council member and historian Tony Brooks, who attended as General Lord Butler.
“It’s the third oldest theater in the United States,” Brooks said at the reception. “That’s significant.”
Mitchell believes the campaign has done more than raise money.
“I think regardless of where we stand in terms of … dollars in the bank, this campaign has certainly raised the visibility of the Little Theatre,” Mitchell said. “There definitely is a buzz going on, the likes of which I don’t remember. Where people are talking about the Little Theatre who I don’t remember ever saying anything about the theater.”
Mitchell said the site hopes to be a destination for other people and organizations.
“We envision this as being a destination place for a variety of users who otherwise do not have an economical place to go,” he said, listing musical groups, soloists, comedians, filmmakers, dancers and many more as possible beneficiaries.
“There’s no similar facility in the Greater Wilkes-Barre/Wyoming Valley area that will have 300 seats, and a state-of-the-art performing arts center … the uses are limitless as long as we can get the building up to snuff, so to speak.”
To donate, make a check out to Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, P.O. Box 1, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18703, or pledge online at www.ltwb.org.
“I’d really like to thank the hundreds of people who have already made a contribution and/or pledge, who have created the excitement that we’re feeling about this at the Little Theatre, and that they will help us follow through to fruition in 2022.”
Mitchell continued: “Anybody can have a ground-breaking or ribbon cutting, but how about we have a main stage curtain opening to signify the completion of this drive, and the complete renovation and upgrade that the building itself so desperately needs?”
Editor’s note: Mary Therese Biebel also contributed to this story.