HART reaches threshold to build Stage II

Jul 24, 2013

One year ago, on opening night of HART’s production of “La Cage Aux Folles” the theater announced its goal of raising one million dollars to construct a second main stage as part of the Performing Arts Center at the Shelton House.

Many thought the goal impossible and even the Board set a $100,000 threshold that had to be met by November of last year. But HART’s patron’s stepped forward and the threshold was met by the end of August. Since that time the success of the capital campaign has been phenomenal.

Nearly two hundred people have made contributions. In March a major gift from Daniel and Belle Fangmeyer doubled the total raised up to that time ensuring the projects eventual success. That was followed by a challenge gift from Ned and Suzie Allen of $50,000 through the Community Foundation of Central Florida. HART matched the Allen challenge within two days with a gift from Vesta Hrnciar, a long time HART patron.

Any thoughts that the new performance space, now to be named the Daniel and Belle Fangmeyer Theater, might not happen were put to rest. Steve Lloyd,  HART’s Executive Director agreed with the HART Board that construction shouldn’t begin until there was at least $600,000 in cash and pledges.  The hope was that this could be achieved by Fall.

On Thursday, July 11 the total raised was right at $525,000. On Friday, opening night of HART’s production of “Brigadoon”  Susie and John Harmon stepped forward with a pledge of support totaling $75,000 triggering the green light for Stage II.

HART’s fundraising efforts have succeeded so quickly that the hold up now is the completion of the architectural plans and arrangements with contractors.  On Tuesday, July 16, 2013 the HART Board of Directors will make the decisions as to the timetable for going forward but it now appears that the new theater space could be completed sometime next year.

The consequences for Haywood County are huge. HART is the number one attraction in Waynesville according to TripAdvisor and HART conducted an economic impact study that revealed that because half those attending HART performances are visitors to the community the theater has a $2.4 million annual impact on the area economy.

The problem for both HART and the community is with the limitations of the single performance space at the Performing Arts Center the group must close for up to three weeks between shows, handicapping the theater’s bottom line but also making it very difficult to promote the theater as an area attraction.

The new Fangmeyer Theater will double HART’s performance weeks and potentially double the economic impact on the community. Restaurants, for example, will be able to plan for a regular preshow dinner crowd throughout the summer.  Hotel and B&B owners can offer theater packages.  The potential benefits to the community as HART grows are significant.

HART is one of Western North Carolina’s most successful arts organizations, winning awards for its productions and regularly playing to full houses. Almost 80 percent of HART’s budget comes from ticket sales. The group has never operated at a financial loss.

Its summer musical productions play to thousands of patrons. HART’s home has played host to performances by Folkmoot USA, the Haywood County Arts Council’s Haywire lawn concerts, January Jazz, Razzle Dazzle Saturday, the Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival, The Smoky Mountain Brass Band and numerous other events to benefit the community. HART donates its parking lot to the Haywood County Farmer’s Market and each winter its lobby to the AARP for free tax service.

The new space will include a flexible 150 seat theater, about half the size of HART’s current auditorium along with a Bistro/Café to be operated before and after performances. The theater can be reconfigured and will have a full kitchen allowing the group to do dinner theater and cabaret in addition to plays and can also be used for receptions and other events. Rest rooms have been designed to also serve the Haywood County Farmers Market.

Though the interior will be completely different from the current theatre the exterior will be a close match, continuing the barn style created by architect Joe Sam Queen for the original facility. Queen and his daughter, architect Sarah Queen are responsible for the design of the new theater.

To make a contribution to the project send your donation or pledge to HART Stage II, PO Box 1024, Waynesville, NC 28786