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The Merc Playhouse building in Twisp is for sale and the Merc Playhouse organization wants to buy it. - Photo by Solveig Torvik

Halfway There
Merc Playhouse capital campaign

The Merc Playhouse organization has raised enough money to purchase The Merc building in April if all goes by the plan, according to theatre officials.

The non-profit theatre on Glover Street in downtown Twisp has been engaged in a capital campaign since last October, according to managing director Jane Hubrig. The goal is not only to raise $237,000 to purchase the building, but a total of $375,000 to pay for much-needed improvements to the facility.

“We’re more than half way to the goal,” Hubrig said on Monday. The campaign was kicked off initially with a $115,000 challenge grant from the Moccasin Lake Foundation, she added.

Leading lights of The Merc Playhouse, from left: board of directors president Missy Smith, managing director Jane Hubrig, artistic director Julie Wenzel, with co-director understudy Eli on her lap. - Photo by Solveig Torvik

But Merc board of directors president Missy Smith, co-chair of the capital campaign, stressed that “It’s important for people to realize that we’re not to our goal yet.” The organization is entering a new phase of the fund-raising effort, hoping to encourage a broader range of people to donate to the cause.

“We’re just so excited that this building is going to be owned by the community,” said artistic director Julie Wenzel, who acknowledged that economically “this is not an ideal time” to be asking people to support such an undertaking.

The building was put up for sale by the theatre’s founders, Caroleanne and Egon Steinebach of Twisp, who had been leasing it to the Playhouse. If The Merc Playhouse does not buy it, the theatre risks having its home sold out from under it, according to the organization’s leaders.

The campaign goal is to raise enough money to buy the building, set aside $30,000 for an emergency maintenance fund, and add 40 seats to the 99-seat theater. The plan also includes improved lighting, box office space, interior paint and dry-walling the back wall. The sound and lighting booth would be moved to the rear of the balcony for better sightlines, and curtains would be hung around the seating area. Safety for patrons will be improved, said Smith, with handrails, better lighting and handicapped-accessible seating.

An artist's rendering of some of the improvements to the theatre the Merc Playhouse organization would like to make. Image courtesy Merc Playhouse.

As the Twisp Mercantile, the 1924 building was a central feature of valley life for decades. It sat empty for many years until purchased by the Steinebachs, who opened the first season of professional theatre there in 1999.

The Merc filled more than 6,300 seats through 2010, with 116 theatrical and musical event nights, an increase of 102 percent over 2007. The theatre now puts on five productions per season. Among its other offerings are a Children’s Theatre, week-long summer drama camps and a technical training program for young people interested in running sound and lights for live performances. Its operating budget is $100,000 per year, according to Hubrig.

Donations to the capital campaign may be sent to The Merc Playhouse, P.O. Box 425, Twisp, Wa., 98856.



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