The Marco Players will be facing its final curtain at the end of November without an infusion of cash over the next four weeks.
Dire financial straits have befallen the community theater group this year due to the coronavirus-related federal and State of Florida recommendations and regulations limiting or banning large gatherings that were prompted by the pandemic.
“After 46 years, we’re facing possibly closing permanently,” said Beverly Dahlstrom, the Marco Players’ Executive-Artistic Director. “I’m really asking for community support to avoid that happening.”
She said the organization will be forced to liquidate assets and cease operations at the end of November if the needed funds are not received.
When the pandemic-related regulations took effect in March, it forced Marco Players to cancel the next to last show of its 2019-2020 season, “Born Yesterday,” after the first week of a three-week–long run. Also canceled was the season’s final production, “Sylvia,” which was also scheduled for a three-week engagement. Those performances were also canceled.
The closure cost the nonprofit theater group $75,000 in ticket sales, essential revenue for a small operation that functions on a very tight budget. A special fundraising drive over the summer entitled, “Staying Alive with the Arts,” generated about $25,000 of the goal of $50,000. The effort included a Web-based interview series that saw Dahlstrom interview artists, actors and community leaders involved in fostering, promoting and participating in Southwest Florida’s theatrical scene.
“The donors have been amazing,” she said. “They’ve been wonderful this summer.”
Lacking essential revenue this year and substantial cash reserves, the Marco Players now finds itself with scant funds to continue operations.
“We’re down to a couple thousand dollars,” she said. “Everything comes due on the first of the month and then periodically during the month there are bills. We need some financial support to get us over this bump in the road. When the bills start hitting the first of the month, that couple thousand dollars in the bank will disappear quickly.”
In the short term, revenue from the opening 2020-2021 season’s opening show, a three-week return of “Born Yesterday,” is being counted on heavily to help the theater survive. The production was thrown into jeopardy because a cast member suddenly dropped out shortly before last week’s opening when they had to quarantine after being exposed to the Coronavirus at work. Luckily, another actor stepped up to fill the vacancy.
Mere days before the opening, Dahlstrom said advance ticket sales had not been as robust as was hoped. She cited the pandemic and the recent spike in infections nationally as the primary reason why.
“Because we social distance, we can only fill half the theater,” she explained. “If we do that, that’s half the revenue and we’re not generating the ticket sales. People are afraid. We sanitize, we have masks if people need them, we have thermometers, we have sanitizers, everything is clean. But we’re not getting the attendance that we anticipated because we’ve had a resurgence of COVID-19 and people are being very cautious. Tickets are not flying off the shelves.”
Dahlstrom also expressed concern that the uptick in COVID-19 cases could result in snowbirds delaying their return to the island until January out of concern about the virus and whether the spike could again lead to travel restrictions. She said several of the volunteers the theater depends on during the season have changed their travel plans for that reason.
“So, we’re going to be hit by fewer people and still have the same expenses,” she observed. “But if we can generate the same revenue people sent us over the summer then we can probably stay alive.”
To donate to the Marco Players, or for more information about the theater group, visit themarcoplayers.com, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 239-642-7270. The Marco Players is located at 1089 N. Collier Blvd., in unit 432 of the Marco Town Center Mall.