The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 16, 2012

Funds raised will help Gaslight Theatre make repairs

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Gaslight Theatre will be making a few repairs, thanks to a fundraising drive that raised more than board members thought they would receive.

Ben Ezzell, president of the Gaslight Board of Directors, headed up the drive, which was based on a matching grant from Park Avenue Thrift. Park Avenue promised to donate $30,000 if the theater could raise $15,000 in three weeks: a two-for-one match. The final total was $79,966 with 64 total donors, Ezzell said, making it the most successful drive since Gaslight purchased the building.

“It was done in 60 days,” Ezzell said. “Now we will improve the theater. All the money goes to facility projects we talked about: curtains, lighting and a sound system for the Turpin Theater.”

The 64 donors included individuals, businesses and foundations. Ezzell wrote some grants that were matched, and along the way, Park Avenue increased their pledge to $40,000 as the theater raised more funds.

“We had donations as small as $9,” Ezzell said. “We can’t thank Park Avenue enough.

“(The fundraising) went well, and it was a lot easier than we thought. You just have to ask.”

Ezzell said the fundraising was easier than the board thought it would be because the Gaslight Theatre enjoys a good reputation in Enid.

“The Gaslight is widely beloved,” he said. “People who never donate to the Gaslight donated to this.”

Ezzell said the secret is to create an exciting project and talk to lots of people. Park Avenue’s match drew in lots of money, and he said the project could not have been done otherwise.

Repairing the lighting and installing the electrical equipment are first priorities. Then, the legs — side curtains — will be put in, as well as the sound system for the Turpin Theater. Ezzell said the sound inside Turpin Theater is inadequate, while it has become a popular venue for First Friday cabarets.

Further improvements include hearing assistance systems. The systems are ear devices that plug into the theater sound system so people with hearing impairments can get a direct feed.

When the funding campaign started, there was a list of needed items, and Ezzell said most of those will be purchased.

A dimmer pack and light board for the technical room were priority items. A dimmer pack is the electrical relay that handles the massive amount of electricity needed to bring up and fade out stage lights. Gaslight has two dimmer packs, each handling about half of the stage lighting. If those went out, Gaslight would not be able to do a show.

Replacement of the stage legs also was a priority item. The legs are curtains on the side of the stage, about 8 feet wide and staggered to hide the off-stage area. They were acquired when Gaslight moved into the current location in the 1990s.

“The bottoms are frayed, and they look like a large cat used them as a scratching post,” Ezzell said.

 The cost of the priority needs is $16,000 for the dimmer pack and light board, and $3,000 for the legs.

A new sound system for the Turpin Theater also is on Gaslight’s list. The small, intimate theater is being used more frequently, especially for First Friday Cabaret and Third Thursday musical sessions. The Turpin sound system will cost about $4,000. The present sound system is the same one used for Shakespeare in the Park and is well suited for booming out voices over a large area, but not for small concerts and plays such as those held in the Turpin.

The funds would allow for purchase of a small sound system hard-wired to the Turpin room.