HART expansion moves forward
Folks love Haywood Arts Regional Theatre and they're proving it with substantial contributions to Stage II, the second theatre planned for the HART campus on Pigeon Street below the Shelton House.
The ceremonial ground-breaking for the additional performance space will take place in September with actual construction beginning in March, 2014, HART executive director Steve Lloyd told HART's board of directors at their regular meeting Tuesday afternoon.
When the $1 million Stage II project was launched last year, the board and Lloyd agreed that $600,000 must be in the bank before going forward. That goal was reached last week when Susie and John Harmon stepped forward with a pledge of support totaling $75,000. The Harmons are the owners of Laurel Ridge Country Club. Their only request was that the bistro/café be named "Harmon's Den." HART quickly agreed.
The new performance space will be known as the Daniel and Belle Fangmeyer Theatre. In March, a major gift from the Fangmeyers doubled the total raised up to that time, ensuring the project's success.
Ned and Suzie Allen followed with a challenge gift through the Community Foundation of Central Florida. HART matched the Allen challenge within two days with a gift from Vesta Hrnciar, a longtime HART patron.
Statistics show that HART is an economic engine in Haywood County. An economic impact study conducted by TripAdvisor and HART revealed that half of those attending HART performances are visitors to the community, resulting in a $2.4 million annual impact on the area economy. That study showed that HART is Haywood County's No. 1 attraction.
HART realized some time ago that a single performance space has serious limitations. The HART Performing Arts Center must close for up to three weeks between shows, handicapping the theater's goal of being a true area attraction which in turn affects the bottom line.
The new Fangmeyer Theatre will double HART's performance weeks and potentially double the economic impact.
"The benefits to the community as HART grows are significant," said Lloyd.
Eighty percent of HART's budget comes from ticket sales. The theatre has never operated at a financial loss.
"Our season ticket holders are the backbone of our operating budget," said Lloyd in an earlier interview. "We count on them."
At Tuesday's board meeting, Lloyd rolled out the schedule for 2014. In addition to such crowd-pleasers as the powerful "To Kill a Mocking Bird," "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," featuring the music of Neil Sadaka and everybody's favorite "Hello, Dolly," one selection brought laughter from board member Libba Feichter, who has been involved with HART since its inception.
Lloyd chooses the plays.
"You just had to do it, didn't you, Steve," she said with a chuckle.
Feichter was referring to "Urinetown: The Musical," a Tony-award winning Broadway send-up of just about anything considered politically correct.
Lloyd said later that although those types of choices are a stretch, it is important to take risks.
"Not everybody likes Rodgers and Hammerstein," he said. "Our diversity is one of the things that makes us successful."
Other productions for 2014 include Shakespeare's "MacBeth" and the Broadway, film and television side-splitter "The Odd Couple."
Architect Joe Sam Queen, designer of the existing performing arts center, is joined by his daughter Sarah Queen in planning Stage II. The exterior will mimic the existing center, but the flexible 150-seat interior is totally different and can be set up for a variety of functions. Restrooms are designed to serve the Haywood County Farmers Market which sets up in HART's parking lot during the summer.
To make a contribution to the project, Lloyd suggests sending donations or pledges to HART Stage II, P.O. Box 1024, Waynesville, N. C. 28786.