It was only five years ago when the Kanawha Players last found themselves in dire straits.
Kanawha Players president Ginger Workman said, "I've been with the Kanawha Players for about six years, and it's always been an ongoing struggle to keep up."
In 2009, the community theater group was being sued for unpaid bills on repairs and renovations to its building on Beauregard Street. It was also struggling just to keep the lights and water on, and there was a lot of infighting between board members and Kanawha Players' president, John Halstead.
But circumstances improved, and during the last few years, the 92-year-old theater group has seen a turn around.
"It's always been a struggle, but we've definitely been on the upswing," Workman said. "Our fall or Halloween plays have been really big money makers for us. They've helped us get through the winter."
This winter, however, was cold, came early and lingered. Charleston also faced a water crisis. Utility costs at the building, Workman said, were astronomical, and the group is behind on its mortgage, too.
"We're just way behind and afraid we're going to lose our building at this point, which is a shame. We've got a pretty good board, and we've been having some really good shows."
Ticket sales have been up, which is in contrast to the problems that closed Charleston Stage Company last June. That group cited financial difficulties and declining attendance as the main reasons why it could no longer continue.
Workman said Kanawha Players needs about $7,000 by July 1 to keep the building and catch up on bills. To try to raise the money, it is hosting a series of fundraisers over the next two weeks.
The Kanawha Players are trying a little bit of everything.
This weekend, there will be a movie night and an ‘80s-themed party at the theater. The movie night starts at 8 p.m. Friday, showing an Ed Wood double feature of “Plan 9 from Outer Space” and “Jail Bait,” for $5, with concessions also sold. The ‘80s party runs 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday with retro gaming, a dance party, photo booth and costume contest; tickets are $10 for singles and $15 for couples.
Next, there is a fundraiser with the East End McDonald’s June 19, where 15 percent of any food purchases (dine in, carry out or drive-thru) made at the restaurant from 4 to 8 p.m. benefit Kanawha Players.
Then, the Wayward Girls School of Burlesque will host a series of burlesque workshops at the theater from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 20. Four last a half-hour each, and one is an hour. They’re $10 each or five for $40 and topics include an introduction to burlesque, basic burlesque dance instruction and a tutorial on burlesque hair and makeup. Some classes require additional materials fees of $5 or $10.
The Kanawha Players’ main fundraiser is June 21-22 at the theater. Beginning at 10 a.m. each day, it will feature a variety of vendors, a silent auction, an autograph signing by West Virginia actor Jeremy Ambler and performances by area bands including Harrah, The Renfields and Miniature Giant. Admission is a minimum of $5 each day.
“We're adding more and more bands to that,” Workman said. “We're also trying to get some comedians together.”
June 22 is also the Kanawha Players’ general meeting. It begins at 3 p.m.
“We hope people just come out to support us,” Workman said.
For those who can't attend but would like to contribute, she said there is a donation button on the Kanawha Players’ website, www.kanawhaplayers.org.
“We'll have t-shirts available on the website soon,” she added.
The Kanawha Players are still planning and looking at additional ways to raise money, but the clock is ticking.
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5195.