What goes around comes around at the Center Place Fine Arts & Civic Association, which is evident by the arts-focused fundraisers held to collect money that in turn is used to help stage theater shows and art classes for children and adults.
“Theater programming for Center Place is very important but it’s not a money maker for us,” said Dawn Galia, the center’s executive director. “Most years we break even with our theater programming but we believe it’s important to have that type of programming and we’re always looking for sponsors.”
Indeed, with the new year comes a seven-show lineup through May 9, including “The Main Street Kid’s Club A MathStart Musical” on Jan. 24, “Anansi & The Tree of Life” on Feb. 6 and “Are You My Mother?” on Feb. 28. Noted as sponsors for the 2013-14 season are the Pat’s Corner Gift Shop at Center Place, the 2013 Wild Dame Night and Patron Party “Surf’s Up” Support the Arts fundraisers, Terry Fink of State Farm Insurance, Kohl’s Department Store, Macy’s, the Brandon Community Foundation and Stages Productions.
Tickets for the adult-themed, women only 23rd Annual Wild Dame Night, scheduled for Feb. 15, are on sale. The featured show, presented by Stages Productions in support of the major fundraiser, is “Three Little Pigs, Pretty as a ‘Pig’ture.” The 30th annual patron party, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Arts,” is scheduled for April 12, with a theme based on “The Wizard of Oz.”
Billed as a “professional family theater ensemble that specializes in bringing classic fairy tales to over 150,000 people each year across Florida,” Stages Production is a strong presence at Center Place, having last performed “Santa’s Holiday Revue” there in December.
“It was an up-close and personal experience for the kids,” Galia said. “They just did a show at the Mahaffey Theatre before 1,700 kids. Here, our maximum capacity is 375.”
Susan Saunders, a long-time Center Place supporter and volunteer and past president of its board of directors, said she was especially moved by a young audience member on his way out of the Mook Art Gallery and meeting space, where the theater productions are held.
“He walked out and looked up at me and said, ‘You know what? I wished it would never end,’” Saunders said. “We always are amazed at the wonderful talent they bring to Center Place. I couldn’t say anything bad about them. Their harmonies, their singing, they’re always utterly entertaining.”
Galia noted that the show was staged on a Friday night, and offered to the community for free, because Fink was its sponsor.
“I would love to have every one of our night shows sponsored so we can offer them to the community for free,” Galia added. “It only costs $1,000 to sponsor a show.”
Without a sponsor, ticket prices for an evening show, which lasts about an hour, is $7 per person and $6 for Center Place members.
Center Place in 2013 staged 54 theatrical productions that were attended by more than 14,500 children and adults, according to the nonprofit’s accounting of accomplishments. Also noted is that over the past five years Center Place gave more than 15,000 free tickets to children qualifying for the free or reduced-price lunch program in public schools.
“A lot of times this is the only time these kids will get to see live theater,” Saunders said.
“If we get sponsors for the school shows we can bring in Title I schools for free shows,” Galia added, in reference to the federally subsidized school lunch program. “It depends on whether we get a grant or not. Some years we don’t get a grant and we can’t have a show.”
Also noted for Center Place in 2013 were “800 art classes attended by 5,500 children and adults” and the “54 youth art scholarships sponsored by the Center Place gift shop.” It is named posthumously for Patricia B. Odiorne, one of the center’s strongest and earliest supporters. Each year a $1,000 scholarship in her name is awarded to a high school senior.
In addition, Center Place hosts local artists in the Mook Art Gallery each month and each year stages several free community events, including the Halloween Horribles Parade, for more than 1,000 children; Chalk Walk; Cards for Troops; Gallery Hop; and the December tree lighting.
For more information check the Center Place website or call (813) 685-8888.