Zelienople's Strand Theater gets $100,000 donation

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The Strand Theater in Zelienople has one very generous fan.

The theater on Main Street in the heart of town recently received a $100,000 donation from someone who has asked to remain anonymous.

"When we reopened the theater in 2009, we have a curtain speech at each performance where we talk about the theater and our needs," said Ron Carter, president and executive director of the Strand Theater Initiative. "That donor heard those pleas over the course of the years and realized the importance of the theater."

This donation is the boost the group needed to kick off its second phase of fundraising for additional work on the theater, he said.

The nonprofit Strand Theater Initiative formed in 2001 in an effort to save the building after it had been shuttered for several years. It was built in 1914 and was host to silent movies and vaudeville-type shows and later became a motion picture theater.

The group raised $2.5 million through private donations and a number of grants to renovate, and it reopened the theater in 2009.

Since that time it has hosted a series of stage shows featuring well-known performers such as Debbie Reynolds, John Oates of Hall and Oates, the Amazing Kreskin and the Celtic Tenors. Movies are shown on other weekends at the theater.

The nonprofit has plans for two more phases of work estimated to cost $6.5 million.

The plans call for the construction of a full stage house to accommodate a much deeper stage and dressing rooms. They also want to build a two-level parking deck with a multipurpose center for black box theater, dance and acting classes and private functions.

Mr. Carter said theater received the $100,000 donation in late September and the donor had directed it to the capital campaign.

But discussions with the donor led to a different plan.

He said they decided to use the money to pay off the mortgage to a building adjacent to the theater where the stage house is to be built. A mortgage on the theater itself was paid off through the last round of fundraising, he said.

Mr. Carter explained that paying off the other building, which now houses an organic dog food shop and an apartment, allows them to add to their capital campaign account quickly instead of expending the money on the mortgage payments.

He said they were able to establish an interest-bearing account with about $11,000 left from the donation after the mortgage was paid.

He said they hope this generous donation will inspire others and serve as a proof to private foundations, which could provide future grants, that there is community support for the theater's additional renovations.

Mr. Carter said the 287-seat theater has attracted patrons from 16 Pennsylvania counties and 17 states.


Laure Cioffi, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com First Published October 17, 2013 1:18 AM


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