Cash-strapped Ritz Theater in Haddon Township seeks donations

HADDON TWP., N.J. - March 24, 2014

The stage crew at the Ritz Theater tore down the set from "You Can't Take it With You," the show closed Sunday.

Now it's time to start building the set for the next production, if there is one.

The theater, which for 30 years has staged a variety of family entertainment, is short of cash to launch preparations for the next production.

The theater's artistic director says they need to raise at least $50,000 by the end of the month or the theater will have to go dark - for at least a while.

"We didn't have the funding to secure the rights to go into rehearsal for the next show that we're doing" said Bruce Curless, artistic director.

The Ritz, built in 1927 as a vaudeville theater, is now on the state and national historic register.

It's a cultural institution in South Jersey and while it was hit hard by the recession, it's still thriving and creating despite the financial shortfall.

The theater has at least a half dozen major productions a year and puts on several outreach classes for children.

Nearly 50,000 people came through the non-profit's doors last year.

Through grants and corporate support the Ritz has the cash flow to handle the mortgage and the taxes.

The subscriber roll, once 4,000 strong, is now half that.

"We have to constantly be doing the fight, we have to constantly be fundraising but this will let us catch our breath and put into effect all the plans we've made," said Curless.

Through Facebook and other social media since Friday the Ritz has raised $25,000 of the $50,000 that is needed.

A major fund raising extravaganza is set for April 5th.

"Everybody that's performing lives in a very small radius of the theater," said Kris Clayton, production manager.

"People are charmed when they walk in but they come back, I think, to enjoy the art," said Curless.

Management says the theater is desperate now, not being overdramatic, and that they need a lot of money by the end of March.

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