By GINA KINSLOW
HORSE CAVE — Shawn O’Keefe sat in a back row at Kentucky Repertory Theater on Friday afternoon working on his lap top.
He was there waiting for his daughter, Alex, a student at Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, to finish rehearsals with the theater’s Young Performers Acting Group.
O’Keefe is like many other parents who were saddened to learn the theater is experiencing financial problems and could possibly close if it doesn’t raise $350,000 by mid-March.
“I was telling Robert (Brock) earlier I wish I could hit the lottery so I could take care of it all for him,” he said. “It really needs to be here. It’s a hidden treasure. It doesn’t need to go anywhere. They need to find the money.”
The theater found itself in a financial crisis due to a loss of donations from three major supporters who took huge hits by the failing stock market.
“That was a devastating blow to the tune of $65,000,” said Robert Brock, artistic director. “Looking to the future, we probably won’t have them again this year, which really makes it tricky, because these are foundations that we’ve been able to count on for a long time and now we have to fly without them.”
Escalating gas prices last summer led to a loss in ticket sales, which added to the theater’s financial woes.
A couple of weeks ago theater officials launched a fundraising campaign, “Save A Kentucky Treasure,” in an effort to generate the needed money. As of Friday afternoon, the theater had raised between $140,000 to $150,000.
“I think it is just wonderful progress,” said Mary Margaret Villines, development director. “That’s a lot, especially when you consider smaller donations. I would say there’s not a donation that exceeds $2,000 to $3,000. We have a number of $1 donations. We have a lot of $25 donations up to $1,000.”
Villines said the amount of money generated in such a short time indicates a swell of support for the theater.
“Ever since we announced this campaign we already had checks coming into the office. We have not had a single day to pass that we didn’t have a number of checks coming in,” she said.
Brock said that puts the theater at a little over a third of the way toward reaching its goal.
“But we’re not out of the woods yet. This is a lot of people doing what they can and a lot of people who don’t want to see anything happen to this theater and that’s really good to know,” he said.
Several people are reaching out to help the theater in its time of need, including its Young Performers Acting Group.
Felicia Fisher has only been involved with the group for a year, yet when she learned the theater was strapped for cash and could possibly close she came up with an idea for a fundraiser.
“It just came to me one day,” said the Glasgow High School junior.
Fisher’s idea was to talk to Glasgow restaurants about donating a portion of their profits on a specific night to the theater.
“I had remembered we had done this for band at Zaxby’s in Glasgow,” she said.
So Fisher spoke to officials at Zaxby’s, Buckhead Cafe, Dairy Queen, Wendy’s, Sonic and McDonalds. Not all of the restaurants agreed to help, but a few did. Fisher is hoping the Young Performer’s Acting Group can raise $1,500.
Travis Bishop, also a Glasgow High School student, doesn’t want to see the theater close either.
“If we lose this theater it would be such a devastating loss to everybody,” he said. “I love this place. I’ve been here since 2003. I’ve learned so much here. It’s like my second home.”
Joining the theater’s Young Performers Acting Group in raising money for the theater is Rufus Huff, a regional rock band.
Band members heard theater officials’ cry for help and agreed to pitch in by playing a benefit concert.
“Most of us have been fans of the theatre since the ’70s, plus the Rufus Huff CD will be released April 14. Besides a benefit, it’ll also be a CD release for this area,” said band member Greg Martin. “I’m not sure how much we’ll raise, but every little bit helps.”
The benefit concert is set for April 21.
A group of Allen County English teachers are planning to make a donation on their own as a way of giving back because the theater has helped them so much with meeting core content requirements.
Heading up the effort is Vicki Cooper, who teaches drama at Allen County-Scottsville High School and is a huge supporter of the theater.
“I’m going to put in as much as I can and the other teachers are too. It’s sort of a love offering so to speak,” she said.
Cooper is also working on a project involving several students, but did not want to reveal what it was until after it had been approved by school district officials.
Brock is planning to speak to legislators about the theater qualifying for federal stimulus funding through the National Endowment of the Arts.
“It might really supplement the effort of this appeal to get us where we need to be,” he said.