President Rod introduced today’s speakers Jere Righter – Artistic Director of the Croswell Opera House who spoke first. Jere said that this was a particularly special year since the Croswell will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. Built back in 1866 (almost as old as our club president), the Croswell has a seating capacity of 650. Back in the 1870’s Jere said the opera house held 1,200. Why?, you ask, because the audience sat on benches not bolted to the floor! In 1890, John Philip Sousa played there. Jere passed around some enlargements of some very old photos of the downtown as well as interior of the Croswell.
Speaking next was Emory Schmidt, chairman of the capital campaign as well as of their board. Emory said that he and his wife, Kris, have been part of this community since 1978 and that he never ceases to be amazed at how well people in Adrian support causes like the one the Croswell has embarked on to raise $6.2M to renovate this historic theater – “the crown jewel of the arts in southeast Michigan”, as he termed it.
He said that about 5 years ago the theater was experiencing some very lean times and close to folding actually. Thanks to the board’s strategic plan, the Croswell is now making money and continues to plan incredibly successful events throughout the year. Some 30% of the theater’s patrons live in Ohio, Emory said!
The capital campaign got its original shot in the arm, he said, when a former Adrian resident and AHS grad, then Julie Henderson, attended the Shrek production several years ago and was quite impressed. Julie married George Argyros, who was the Ambassador to Spain during the Bush administration. When representatives of the Croswell asked her for a gift in the amount of $250,000 Julie wrote a check for $1M instead which became seed money to start the campaign!
The campaign's goal is $6.2 of which $5.2 has already been pledged! Emory announced that yet another anonymous donor has come forward and offered a $250,000 matching gift! There is yet another $1M currently in the pipeline as the “stretch goal” has increased to $7.2M.
A Great Big Night celebration is planned for June 1. The Croswell hopes to be able to report that the campaign was successful in raising the entire $7.2M amount. The production that night will be “Billy Elliott”. In April the Journey Tribute Band will perform. In July the production Leap of Faith will be presented and in April – the Drowsy Chaperone.
Following their presentation, President Rod presented Jere and Emory a check for $10,000 from our club towards the capital campaign.