‘We’re thrilled to death’: Theatrical entities in Ridgefield receive funding through grant program

RIDGEFIELD — Four theatrical entities in town have received a total of more than $4.9 million through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, according to a July 12 report.

The Ridgefield Theater Barn, Thrown Stone Theatre Company, Daniel C. Levine Productions and Bow Tie Cinemas are the latest beneficiaries of the program, which was created by the federal Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act signed into law last December.

The act provided $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, and contained $15 billion in grants to be administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance, according to a release. Eligible entities include live performing arts organizations, museums, movie theaters, live venue promoters and operators that were hit hard during the pandemic.

The cinemas received nearly $4.8 million while Levine’s eponymous production company received about $54,000. The business provides entertainment for Princess Cruise lines and touring productions for performing arts centers nationwide. It is not, however, affiliated with A Contemporary Theatre of CT, where Levine is artistic director.

“Some press outlets mistakenly associated Daniel C. Levine Productions, LLC, with ACT of CT,” Levine said in an email to Hearst Connecticut Media. “ACT of CT has not yet received SVOG funding. Our status is still under review. We certainly hope to hear something very soon, as this funding is certainly needed.”

Thrown Stone Theatre Company received more than $37,000 as it prepares to resume performances for the first time in 15 months.

On Wednesday, the group hosted an actors’ workshop at Keeler Tavern Museum, but because union contracts have been backlogged due to COVID, “We had to pay a lot more than we expected,” Founder and Co-Artistic Director Jonathan Winn said. “It would be a hardship without the SVOG to support.”

While Winn was delighted to get the grant, he underscored the fact that the arts are consistently underfunded, even without a pandemic.

“I say that as someone who does not take a salary,” he said. “The intent (of the program) is to get money in the hands of artists so that we can get them working again, and we intend fully to use that money for that purpose.”

The Ridgefield Theater Barn received nearly $80,000 in SVOG funding, a portion of which will be used to bolster the payroll for four full-time employees, Executive Director Pamme Jones said.

“It was not money that we were counting on ... (so) we’re thrilled to death,” she added. “Really what it means for us is we can continue to keep everybody employed without having to look backwards anymore.”

Since the program allows a certain percentage of the funding to be used for capital expenses, the Barn plans to direct $25,000 toward its long-awaited expansion. The project will add a 4,800-square-foot space to the building’s existing two-story frame and renovate a portion on the back of the structure. Construction is slated to begin in March.

Jones views the grant as “insurance” should the region see a spike in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant, which has been spreading in Connecticut for weeks. On Thursday, the state reported genetic sequencing identified another 36 infections in the past week associated with the delta variant, bringing the total to 87.

“I think everyone expects there to be something that happens with the variant,” Jones said. “I don’t think we’ll have to close down or go back to where we were, but might have to (re-institute) more restrictions. This money means we can plan for and weather (that), even if it means we have to stay at 50 percent (capacity) longer than we expected.”

Ultimately, the grants will help ensure Ridgefield’s arts community can continue to thrive, which is important now that the town has the state’s first designated cultural district. For entities within that area, the program could “make a real difference,” Jones said.

“It supports the whole sector,” she added. “The designation is so huge, but it’s not gonna mean anything if people can’t come here and spend their time.”

The SVOG application portal is still open. For program information and guidance, visit sba.gov.

Staff writers Nicholas Rondinone and Jordan Fenster contributed to this story. alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com