Success of 'Morini Strad' boosts cash-strapped Colony Theatre

“The Morini Strad,” the surprise hit playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, has generated enough revenue for the cash-strapped venue to produce the next play of its season, the thriller “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” according to company officials.

But the theater still needs to raise $500,000 to continue operations and have enough money for an endowment to sustain itself, they warned.

“We’ve always just lived close to the edge,” said Barbara Beckley, the theater’s artistic director. “So when the economy tanked, we didn’t have the reserves to keep us going. We need to correct that for the long term.”

The Colony has delayed sending out its subscription renewal notices that were set to go out in January because of the theater’s uncertain future, said Trent Steelman, the theater’s executive director.

“Our subscribers have been incredibly loyal, routinely renewing at a rate of 90%, and we are committed to being transparent with them about our financial situation,” he said.

The immediate goal, he added, is to fund the last production of the season, a world-premiere musical telling the short and often troubled life of lyricist Lorenz Hart — of “Rodgers and Hart” fame — and featuring many songs from his career.

The theater is looking at various fundraising options, including opportunities for a sponsor to have its name above the title of the play on the theater’s marquee and promotional materials, Steelman said, adding that the Colony has “high hopes” that donors will take advantage of a tax write-off for 2012 and give by Dec. 31.

The Colony is also focused on filling two key positions that are currently vacant — a person to handle marketing and another to work on development, including soliciting grants.

Approximately $40,000 needs to be raised to pay for each position, Steelman said.

In October, the Colony announced that if it didn’t raise $49,000 in two weeks, it would have to cancel the opening of “The Morini Strad,” starring Mariette Hartley as an aging successful musician who inadvertently scratches her legendary violin that is worth millions and accompanied her throughout her career.

At the play’s heart is the relationship she forms with the violin maker she hires to repair the instrument.

By popular demand, “The Morini Strad” will return for two more weeks, beginning Jan. 4. It’s the first time the 270-seat equity theater has extended the run of a play since 2007 when it extended its hit production of “Trying.”

The theater will present a free performance of “The Morini Strad” on Jan. 3, for Burbank residents who haven’t been to the Colony before.

“Come discover the Colony for free,” Beckley said.


Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam

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