On October 29, Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) threw a “spirited benefit bash,” Ghost Light Night, to raise funds for its performances and for its education outreach programming.
The evening began at ETC’s home, the New Vic, for a lovely reception, with some guests’ cocktail attire cleverly embellished with Halloween-inspired accoutrements. Guests then filed into the theater for an entertaining concert presentation of a Twilight Zone episode with the X-Files creator, Chris Carter, actor Gregory Harrison, ETC boardmember Dana White, and others.
“Act II” of the evening was an elegant dinner party at the Wine Cask, starting in the courtyard with cocktails and a paddle raise by the ubiquitous and entertaining Geoff Green. A gourmet three-course meal followed, with the 150 guests divided up into the main dining room and the equally refined wine library. While generous sponsorships, the paddle raise, and the $500 tickets allowed ETC to net about $160,000 from the event, the absence of other fundraiser staples such as speeches, videos, and auctions made the evening feel more like a large, festive dinner party than a traditional fundraiser.
ETC is Santa Barbara’s only professional theater company. Ticket sales account for only 40% of production costs, making fundraising imperative. Fundraising is also necessary to support ETC’s extensive education outreach programming for youth and adults.
The Young Actors Conservatory runs both an intensive hands-on three-week summer program and a six-week winter session for high school students, with need-based scholarships offered. Through its Adopt-a-School program, each year ETC provides craft-based programming at one school. This year, Education Director Marcus Giamatti is teaching a Mask Workshop at San Marcos High School. ETC offers free student matinees to junior high and high school students, along with transportation, for two of its productions each year. Prior to the performance, ETC supplies the script and ETC actors provide in-class programming.
For adults, ETC staff visits theater clubs and retirement communities to discuss themes found in upcoming productions. It holds acting classes for adults too; a five-week session just began. The run of each production includes two pre-show talks and one post-performance discussion. ETC also offers a book club in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Public Library, in which ETC’s dramaturg leads a discussion of the script from a literary perspective.
The next production is Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, an imagined sequel to Jane Austen’s masterwork, November 30 – December 17. Anthony Giardina’s The City of Conversation runs February 8-25, Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand April 12-29, and Marion Caffey’s Cookin in the Cookery June 7-24. For more information, go to etcsb.org.