NEW BRITAIN – Calling all enthusiasts of the performing arts and city history: a local cultural hub needs your help.
The Hole in the Wall Theater at 116 Main St. has not had a live show since mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all non-essential operations. This not-for-profit organization is run by all volunteers, who are emptying their own pockets to make rent on the theater space while tickets sales are nonexistent.
“We’ve always been really sensitive to financial need because we don’t pay any volunteers; we don’t have any payroll,” said Ryan Wantroba, president of the HITW Board of Directors. “A lot of the relief funding the government is offering doesn’t apply to us. We’re very much relying on the kindness of our community right now.”
The cost to sustain the theater is about $4,000 a month between rent and utilities.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by HITW volunteer Kim Wantroba, who has been helping out with box office sales and concessions since her son Ryan performed in his first show there in 2007.
“I’m desperate to keep them in business,” Kim said. “They’ve been around since the 1970s and this COVID-19 thing is apt to kill them.”
The last time patrons enjoyed the HITW was right around March 13, at the premiere of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Its doors have been shut since and will be at least through the beginning of June.
“Even after we are allowed to reopen, we would not be able to catch up on rent and utility bills,” Kim said in her fundraising plea. “It would be a shame if, after surviving economic ups and downs for almost 50 years, we had to close permanently.”
Call her a stage mom or a community theatre devotee, but this volunteer has offered up her whole stimulus check to the cause, as long the community is willing to help too.
Through 11:59 p.m. May 20, 2020, any donation made to the HITW GoFundMe page will be matched dollar for dollar by Kim, up to a maximum of $1,200. Donations to the fund being made by current HITW members do not apply; only contributions from non-members hoping to save the theater will be matched.
Visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-hole-in-the-wall-theater to make a donation.
The HITW Theater opened in 1972. Since then, there have been over 260 productions – many of them free to the community. Although volunteers can no longer afford to operate this way, they have continued the tradition by offering at least one “Pay-What-You-Can” night for each main stage production.
Members are currently meeting remotely to read lines and stay in practice so they don’t lose their momentum.
“We’d like to have a couple plays ready to go once the theater does reopen,” Ryan said.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.
How you can help:
Donate to the Hole in the Wall Theater at https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-hole-in-the-wall-theater