On Stage

Finding the Grail

Bellingham Theatre Guild’s Capital Campaign

Thursday, September 3, 2015

While King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table stampeded back and forth across the Bellingham Theatre Guild (BTG) stage during a rehearsal of Monty Python’s Spamalot last Friday night, the basement of the venerable performance space was seeing an equal amount of action.

Both those above and those below were seeking their own grails. In the play, the actors were galloping across the countryside on invisible horses hoping to discover the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, while those gathered in the large meeting room underneath the stage were there to find out more about the longtime theater’s official kickoff to their long-awaited New Foundation Capital Campaign.

In the case of the latter, the “grail” was something the BTG board and its supporters have been earnestly pursuing for decades—funds to install an elevator in the former church (which was built in 1903) to make it handicapped-accessible, and shore up the building’s foundation, both to to accomodate the elevator’s weight and to level the auditorium and stage doors.

“This is a momentous occasion in the 87-year history of the Bellingham Theatre Guild,” former BTG president Andy Backus said of the campaign, which aims to not only make the theater physically accessible to the entire community, but also to secure its future for the next 87 seasons.

Those gathered around tall pillars pasted with posters of plays that have made appearances in past seasons—everything from Nuncrackers to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Private Lives, Come Back Little Sheba, Dearly Departed, and far beyond—clapped enthusiastically with each new announcement.

One statement that drew loud applause was that of the $900,000-$1,000,000 that is needed to complete the work, more than $400,000 has already been raised since the board first started planning the campaign two years ago.

“We’re going to make this happen, but it can’t happen without the community,” current BTG president John Purdie said when it came time for him to speak. He noted that the funds need to be raised by February of next year to complete all the work, but that there’s currently enough in the bank to get started on fixing the foundation issues.

Ideally, though, the full goal will be met and the Bellingham Theatre Guild—which has been showcasing five or six plays a year in its current locale since 1944, and logs more than 25,000 voluteer hours each season—will open its 2016/2017 season on stronger ground than ever.

“The work could be done by next summer, provided we all work together,” Purdie said.

Whether you’re a longtime supporter of the BTG or are new to town, there are a few things you can do to help the theater meet its lofty goal. First off, make a donation and then spread the word about the campaign to everyone you know. If someone’s never seen a show, bring them to Spamalot when it opens later this month, and let them see for themselves what a valuable asset the space is to the community. You can also introduce potential supporters to members of the Capital Campaign Committe, come to a monthly “Behind the Curtain” tour, host a party to tout the campaign or simply contact one of the movers-and-shakers at the BTG to find out more.

If it helps, tell everyone you know that you’re on a quest to help the Bellingham Theatre Guild discover its holy grail. In that way, fundraising becomes an epic tale of adventure, and you’re one of the heroes.

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