Donor gives major boost to Strand Theater expansion in Zelienople

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Strand Theater in Zelienople has received a $100,000 gift that will go toward the second phase of a campaign to expand the theater.

The local donor, who chose to remain anonymous, helped to determine how the money would be used, according to Ron Carter, president and executive director of the theater.

While $89,000 will go toward paying off the mortgage on property at 121 N. Main Street next to the theater, $11,000 will be put into an interest-bearing account to be used to demolish a building on that property and expand the theater in its place.

Carter kept the gift a secret until announcing it nearly two weeks ago before the theater hosted a Cole Porter show.

“When Ron made that announcement during a live show it threw us all back, and we're always happy to receive any donation someone can give, whether it's $5, $10 or $100,000,” said Mike Potemra, the theater's sound designer and engineer.

Carter said the donation is encouraging for the theater's present and future.

“When someone makes a gift like this it legitimizes what we do, and then other altruistic donors also realize it's worth putting money into the theater,” Carter said.

The Strand Theatre will need $3.4 million to $3.5 million to begin phase two of its reconstruction and expansion, which will add dressing rooms and a stage house to the theater to create a deeper, wider, full stage.

“From a timing standpoint, it would be great to have all of the money in place in 2014, the theater's centennial year, but it's not a matter of if it will happen, but when,” Carter said.

The third phase of the work would cost $3 million to$3.1 million and add a two-tier parking deck with a multipurpose center on top for black box theatre, dancing and acting classes.

“We're successful, and we do well with ticket boxes, but any nonprofit will tell you when you get a $100,000 donation, it's a big push toward fundraising on a larger scale,” said Chris Leisie, the theater's vice president.

The Strand Theater reopened in July 2009 after being vacant for more than two decades.

“Looking back, the continuing success of this project shows the resolve and togetherness of our community,” Leisie said.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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