Theaters and performing arts centers become a fixture in the communities they serve, but also rely on those communities to keep track of production.
Chris Fornadel, director of development at Cleveland Play House; Michelle Ryan Steward, senior vice president of advancement at Playhouse Square; and Scott Spence, artistic director of the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, all shared how supporting theaters helps sustain the community.
“We’re celebrating our 100th year this year, people believe it’s a good investment in the community,” Steward said. “We offer shows for all ages, we also offer educational programs which this year our donors have supported with great enthusiasm as we broadcast our educational program (to) over 90,000 during the COVID shutdown.”
Supporting Playhouse Square helps continue educational programs and helps maintain all theaters. More broadly, it supports the community as a whole with residential, dining, theater and office spaces in the Theater District.
“It’s more than just theater, we believe in eating, dining, acting, that’s it,” Steward said.
One of the residential companies in Playhouse Square is Cleveland Play House which, in addition to providing entertainment and educational programs, also offers community outreach programs.
“If a student is hungry or in pain, missing something important to them, they can’t learn,” Fornadel said. “So what we’ve been able to do is we’ve added in different surround programming that (with) partnerships with the Cleveland Food Bank and different organizations, we’re able to provide food for these kids and these students so that they can learn, they are motivated and ready to learn.
Cleveland Play House works closely with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for in-school and out-of-school education programs, as well as adult community programs.
“When you’re considering donating to Cleveland Play House, or any theater, that’s what you’re passionate about,” Fornadel said. “Our job is to connect you as a donor, patron or community member to the things you care about, the things you love the most.”
For the Beck Center in Lakewood, donations help support the operation of the institution to provide theater to the wider community.
“Everything the community member sees when they come to the Beck Center is touched by donation money,” Spence said.
He explained how, while many people choose where they live based on factors such as the best school systems and often donate to make their schools run better, people often do the same for the arts.
“When surveys are conducted on why people live where they live, what they seek in their daily lives, the arts certainly play an incredibly important role in the lives of many people,” Spence said, adding that performing arts centers “really enrich the community.”