Raising the barn: Community theater in Ridgefield opens capital campaign to the public

RIDGEFIELD — In a final push to improve its nearly 100-year-old facility, the Ridgefield Theater Barn is soliciting the community’s help to raise around $300,000 for its capital campaign.

The $1.3 million project comprises a 3,370 square foot addition and 1,500 square feet of renovations, Executive Director Pamme Jones said.

The construction will tack on a new space to the building’s existing two-story frame and renovate a portion on the back end of the structure, allowing the organization to grow its programs.

The expansion’s main level will include: a workshop for set building; backstage wing space; additional restrooms; a new concession stand; and prop and costume shops.

The expansion’s lower level will include: a black box theater for smaller performances; dedicated classrooms and office space for children’s programming; a multipurpose room; a warming kitchen; and dressing rooms.

The existing building will be outfitted with ADA-compliant entrances, restrooms and a conveyance system to increase accessibility, and all safety, fire suppression, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems will be upgraded. Solar-ready connectivity will also be installed.

“We’re looking at March (2022) to get a shovel in the ground,” Jones said. “We’re very excited that we’re 75 percent to goal, but by going public we hope to close off that last $250,000 to $300,000 (portion).”

While the organization continues to correspond with its more major donors, it recognizes its presence as a community theater. Jones said the improvements would offer “huge opportunities” for alumni, families and the general public to become a greater part of the fabric of the Barn.

Individual donors may receive recognition on the Barn’s property for contributing, she said. Staff members are offering site tours to show visitors where the eventual additions and renovations will take place.

Jones said she’d be available to talk to patrons about the project during show times, and future events will invite community members to “have a little fun and contribute at the same time,” she said.

The project is anticipated to boost ticket sales by 25 percent per season; additional revenue is also expected from future black box theater programming and venue rental opportunities.

While the town’s American Rescue Plan monies cannot be used to fulfill capital projects, First Selectman Rudy Marconi believes it could reimburse the Barn for the revenue it lost during the pandemic.

The town has established an informal working group to make determinations on how to use the funds based on guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. As with normal budgetary proceedings, the expenditures would have to be approved via public hearings, town meetings or a natural referendum.

“We can and we need to help the (non-profits) that have perhaps suffered the most … whether the committee agrees remains to be seen,” he said. “As we turn the corner into the new year, we will begin that discussion.”

The most important aspect to Jones’ mind is the expansion of programming, which would offer participants of all ages respite from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“For me 2021 has been worse than 2020 with the reemergence (the virus) and everything that has come along with that,” she said. “This is a place for adults to find some artistic rest or expression, learn something new and feed that part of self-care.”

For more information about the Barn’s capital campaign, visit ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org.