In difficult economic times, we are often told that arts organizations are the first to suffer, but as the old theatrical saying goes, Drayton Entertainment is managing to “break a leg.” The southwest Ontario theatre company launched a grassroots fundraising campaign for its Dunfield Theatre Cambridge, with an announcement of $3.2 million in gifts from private and corporate donors.
“There are tough times, but you know what? People have really stepped forward,” said Alex Mustakas, artistic director and CEO of Drayton Entertainment. “People and corporations who believe in this project and what it can do for the city and for the region.”
The Dunfield Theatre opened its doors at 46 Grand Ave. S. in Cambridge this week with a production of Mary Poppins, but there is still much work to be done. While the building was funded in part by the governments of Canada, Ontario and Cambridge, Drayton is responsible for raising $4.5 million for its theatre and productions.
“We need to let them know that the money is not going into operating, it’s actually for the facility – bricks and mortar and equipment and that sort of thing,” said Mustakas. Funding will be used for lighting and audio equipment, mobility access, a new ticketing system, wireless microphones, and other technical requirements.
Drayton Entertainment, which operates seven theatres in Ontario (including the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse), is a registered not-for-profit charitable group. Mustakas said the organization’s strong track record (it has been active since 1991) made it an attractive option for potential donors.
“We are a sustainable organization operationally just because of the model of sustainability we have created, with the multiple theatres across the province. They know it’s going to a financially viable company,” said Mustakas.
The 27 gifts came from such corporations as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (which gave $150,000 for the naming of the box office), Gore Mutual Insurance Company, and TD Bank Group, as well as private donations from local philanthropists. The theatre is named for the Dunfield Residence, which donated $1 million.
These details were announced to an audience of 350 stakeholders and supporters on February 28, as part of a launch event for the next phase of fundraising, the grassroots campaign. Donors can contribute $1,250 for an engraved tile in the theatre lobby, $500 for a seat in the auditorium, and $50 to $100 for a commemorative item somewhere on the theatre’s property. Drayton is offering tax receipts for all donations.
“Our philosophy is, and always has been, that we would like it to be grassroots,” said Mustakas. “We want everyone to participate who can, from a $50 donation right on up. We feel that it creates ownership, and when you look back, you’ll say, ‘I had a little something to do with that.’”