Although they had to close their doors to inside shows on March 13th, move/cancel more than 120 shows so far (equaling a loss of more than $3 million in ticket income), and cancel their Summer Gala, the other big fundraiser that they depend on, The Ridgefield Playhouse, a nonprofit theater in Ridgefield CT, is not going to let the hard times of COVID-19 get in the way of celebrating a giant milestone.
For 20 years, The Ridgefield Playhouse has been the heart and soul of the community, culture and economy in Ridgefield, CT. “We were hoping to have a BIG Gala celebration for our 20th Anniversary Season,” says Executive Director Allison Stockel. “But I think we have turned lemons into lemonade and have come up with a great way to have a really fun 20th Anniversary Gala!”
On Saturday, October 3rd, the Playhouse will indeed mark its 20th Anniversary season by having performers from the past 20 years make special virtual guest appearances- everyone from Graham Nash, Stephen Schwartz, Todd Rundgren and more- as well as a full LIVE performance on the stage inside the Playhouse with Bruce Hornsby.
“We are really excited to have someone perform on our stage again!” Says Stockel. The Playhouse is offering a variety of ways to participate depending on your comfort level. There will be a limited number of Sponsor tickets inside the theater, as well as outdoor tented seating for Gala ticket holders (both include open bar and a sit-down dinner with food from Bernard’s and Gallo), and virtual streaming tickets for those who want to stay at home.
“We want everyone to be able to be able to celebrate with us,” says Stockel. “For those who feel comfortable coming out, the evening kicks off at 6:30pm - with a red-carpet arrival hosted by Christine O’Leary in the tent on the field next to The Playhouse. There will be restaurant-style seating, where you only sit with your party and will get served dinner with food from Bernard’s and Gallo at your table. Gala ticket holders will watch the performance in the tent via a live feed from the Playhouse stage, and Sponsor ticket holders will have a socially distanced seat inside the theater.”
The Playhouse is also selling streaming tickets for those who want to watch from the comfort of their own home. If you buy a Gala ticket or Sponsor ticket and would like to pick up your dinner and watch via streaming from home- that is also an option.
“I think when the Playhouse opened its doors 20 years ago no one ever thought that we would have gotten to the point where we would be presenting more than 200 shows annually,” says Stockel. “And in addition to that, doing 33 Arts in Education performances, giving away more than $90,000 in free tickets to Title 1 schools and people from low-income areas, and have some of the most iconic performers from all genres like Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Blondie, Stephen Sondheim, Jay Leno and so many more.”
Those numbers are of course pre-Covid. There is no doubt that The Ridgefield Playhouse has grown in size and scope over the past 20 years. Just ask any restaurant owner and they will tell you that when the Playhouse has a show, their restaurant is full. “In addition to being such an important part of this town’s culture, The Playhouse has been a huge economic generator for the town,” says First Selectman Rudy Marconi, “We know times are tough right now and look forward to getting The Playhouse and the Town of Ridgefield back to where it was.”
And times have been tough indeed. “The entire Arts and Culture sector is hurting right now,” says Stockel. “So, we really need to do this Gala. We do not yet know what we will be able to do inside the Theater this winter, we are hoping to know soon. Right now, we can do a few outdoor shows, which is good, but not what we would normally do.” In fact, The Ridgefield Playhouse did only four outdoor shows in the month of August, when they originally had 18 shows booked.
This September they were planning to do 20 live performances and will only be able to do five outdoor shows. “At least it’s something,” Stockel says, “but it’s not enough to keep us going if we aren’t able to, at some point, start doing regular indoor shows again soon.” Even so, Stockel and her team are proud of what they have accomplished and feel positive about where the Playhouse is going. “We have wonderful and loyal sponsors, members and donors.
This Gala is as much for them as it is for us,” says Stockel. “And even though we’re doing it a little differently during these unprecedented times, we’re here and we’re not going anywhere. We have been through a lot over the past 20 years, and we’ve stood the test of time. I know we will be okay and come out on the other end, it’ll just be a bit of a journey to get there.”
The Ridgefield Playhouse Gala is sponsored by PLATINUM SPONSORS: Berisford, Rabinowitz, Ross & Stockel Families, Missy & Andy Williams; GOLD SPONSORS: Eric Diefenbach & JK Brown; SILVER SPONSORS: Deb and Howard Bubb; BRONZE SPONSORS: Caroline & Rommin Adl, Amy & Eric Freidenrich, Kathleen & Dave Lyons, Jill & Larry Mango, Dr. Margaret A. Reed & Patricia Fernandes, The Sawtelle Family, Linsey Tully & Joe Racioppo, Mercedes-Benz of Danbury.
For more information about The Playhouse Gala go online to www.ridgefieldplayhouse.org or, you can visit or call the box office (203) 438-5795.
The Ridgefield Playhouse is a non-profit performing arts center located at 80 East Ridge, parallel to Main Street, Ridgefield, CT and is committed to keeping the arts alive and available to all.