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  • Writer's pictureLisa N. Scheck

The Show Must Go On

"The Show Must Go On” is a phrase that is repeated time and time again by members of The Midland Theater Foundation. This tagline may seem a bit cliché, but it truly encompasses a call to action to save the theater for future generations.

The efforts of The Midland Theater Foundation haven’t gone unnoticed. The project has garnered support from Coffeyville’s Reawakening. In fact, the theater itself was the catalyst for the formation of the group. As a united front, The Midland Theater Foundation is collaborating with Coffeyville’s Reawakening. All individuals involved understand that the theater is a key part of the Downtown Revitalization initiative.

“There’s a major movement underway in Coffeyville,” said Denise York, Midland Theater Foundation Treasurer. “Our project doesn’t begin and end with the opening of The Midland Theater & Event Center, but rather is tied to the success of the entire downtown district.”

While Coffeyville’s Reawakening initiative continues to gain momentum and support, the Midland Theater Foundation will coordinate efforts alongside other downtown revitalization efforts. In the past two years, The Midland Theater Foundation has taken a calculated step back and evaluated their project to ensure they are moving forward on the right path.

Due to the large amount of money needed to finish the project, the Foundation recognized that simply asking for dollars wasn’t enough. They needed to perform their own due diligence, including educating themselves on the community, the project as a whole, alternative fundraising, and more.

Board members have equipped themselves with knowledge, not only about the steps needed to secure funding, but how to sustain the project long after opening the doors. The Foundation continues to work closely with numerous entities, including the Coffeyville Area Community Foundation, the Montgomery County Action Council, and The League of Historic American Theatres. Through a collaborative effort, the Foundation was able to build a comprehensive Business Plan.

The plan is available on their newly updated website and outlines important details about the project, including building and construction specifics, renovation project and budget, market analysis, marketing strategy, fundraising initiatives, operational details, and sustainability.  

“Our team is passionate about opening The Midland Theater & Event Center,” said MTF Vice-President Darrel Harbaugh. “Our commitment extends beyond routine board meetings. We know what this project takes to complete. Each of us is dedicated to move closer to our end goal of providing a gathering place in our historical downtown district.”

In recent months, several board members have attended various educational conferences to enrich the Foundation on key areas, including the annual meeting for The League of Historic American Theatres, a workshop on grant writing, and a daylong seminar on tax credits. By looking at several funding opportunities, such as individual and corporate giving, grants, tax credits, matching campaigns, and event fundraising, the Foundation truly believes it will be able to reach its goal.

“This revitalization is about more than just restoring an old building. It’s about preserving our past to promote positive community and economic growth,” said Haylie Bagwell, President of the Foundation. “It’s incredible to see the positive changes happening already. Simply put, there’s a buzz around town about the theater, Coffeyville's Reawakening movement, and the people behind the project.”

The Foundation is comprised of 15 board members, including four elected officers. Nancy Wright, Secretary of the Foundation commented, “Our board is comprised of capable, intelligent, and passionate people. Each person brings a set of skills and experience to the table. Our board has never been stronger and we are looking forward to a bright future.”

It truly is a labor of love, but each board member feels the same way, “The Show Must Go On.” However, this project isn't all on the Foundation. They need help, whether through a financial or in-kind donation or by volunteering through the Stage Hands program.

“The theater has a rich history for so many generations,” said Board Member Lisa Scheck. “It's captivating to see the excitement in a person’s eyes as they tell you a story. And that’s what we want … to capture that feeling and pass it on to future generations.”

Article featured in The Coffeyville Journal's Special Progress Edition February 2019.

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