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Memorial Opera House raises curtain on fundraising drive

Michael McArdle/Post-Tribune The Memorial OperHouse Valparaiso is celebrating 115 years entertaining community.

Michael McArdle/Post-Tribune The Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso is celebrating 115 years of entertaining the community.

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For more on the Memorial Opera House, go to www.memorialoperahouse.com, or call 548-9137.

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Updated: April 12, 2014 6:24AM



VALPARAISO — The Memorial Opera House is renewing a push for donors and community sponsors to bring in about $100,000 in much-needed revenue.

“We need people to step up and help us make up the difference between our expenses and our sponsorships,” said Michelle Smith, the facility’s business director.

The opera house receives $420,000 a year from the county — it is owned by the Porter County Board of Commissioners and is the county’s responsibility to maintain it — but that money goes for building maintenance and help with utilities, Smith said.

“The county doesn’t do anything for us that they don’t do for all the other buildings they own,” Smith said.

The opera house generates about $260,000 in its own revenue, and last year received another $46,000 or so from grants, donors, playbill advertising and show sponsorships.

Ideally, Smith said, the opera house would receive an additional $100,000 in revenue from donors or sponsorships for a total income of around $400,000.

Smith, who took over as business director about a year and a half ago, has done what she can to slash the opera house’s budget, but it still costs $15,000 on average to put on a typical musical.

“We have cut it down to the bare bones. We can’t cut more and provide quality,” she said.

Productions at the opera house come from the public domain, so Smith does not have to pay licensing fees. She has cut the number of musicals each season from six to five, for example, to cut expenses, and made other reductions.

She also has spearheaded reviving the opera house’s foundation as a fundraising arm for the facility.

Jacki Stutzman, a member of the foundation board and chair of its fundraising committee, said plans for a fundraiser are underway, though the specifics are still being worked out. Still, that’s only part of what the opera house needs.

“I think a good part of it for a number of nonprofits is sponsorships,” said Stutzman, who serves on an assortment of community boards. “That’s where you’re really going to raise the most money.”

Getting those sponsorships requires bringing the opera house back to people’s conscience, and making people aware of what it has to offer, she said.

“It’s on the cusp of a rebirth,” she said.



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