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Liberty Theatre Supporter Hope for a Bonanza During Giving Tuesday
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Monday, November 28, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

R.L. Rowsey has performed in countless theater productions in Hailey’s Liberty Theatre from the popular musical “Always, Patsy Cline” to a songfest paying homage to classical Hollywood titled “A Tribute to the Golden Voices of the Silver Screen.”

But, when he looks back over nearly 25 years in the theater, he most remembers elementary school children running down the aisles pumping their chubby fists in the air as they settled in their seats for the beloved “Frog and Toad.”

“We’ve watched community gather there for plays, to celebrate longstanding citizens getting crowned into the Heritage Court and to watch the young women of Colla Voce share outstanding musical performances,” he said. “If these walls could talk, they’d have some amazing stories.”

Rowsey, who moved across the country to be a part of the theater and music scene at the iconic theater, now hopes that those who have enjoyed the theater over the years will open their hearts and pockets on behalf of the theater during #Giving Tuesday, a one-day, all-online day of philanthropy at the beginning of the Christmas season.

Members of The Liberty Theatre Company are hoping gifts donated on Tuesday, Nov. 29, will help them reach their fundraising goal of $1.7 million so they can perform the necessary renovations to save and reopen the theater. The company has raised more than $717,000 so far and needs to raise another $938,000 by Dec. 31, 2022, to cover renovation and establish a modest endowment for future upkeep of the building.

Supporters can donate at https://www.libertytheatrecompany.org/support-our-company or call 208-582-8388. Checks can also be mailed to the Liberty Theatre Company at Box 2001, Hailey, ID 83333.

“We will definitely be pushing hard on Giving Tuesday, sharing pictures, thoughts, quotes on social media,” said Idaho Theatre Company representative Chris Carwithen. “We’re also sending out our Relight the Liberty mailers hoping to capitalize on end-of-year giving.”

The Art Deco Liberty Theatre opened its doors on Hailey’s Main Street in 1938, serving initially as the town’s movie theater. Hailey resident Joan Davies recalls paying 28 cents in 1939 to see “Gone with the Wind.” Jennifer Bowen watched the debut of “Lore of the Rings” there. And Kathleen Eder remembers actor Bruce Willis showing up for the Hailey Ski Team’s fundraiser there.

As Claudia Aulum notes, the Liberty Theatre was here before Hemingway and outlasted Union Pacific, entertaining miners, farmers, even skiers coming in on the Snowball Express.

After Bruce Willis and Demi Moore purchased the theater, they invited their friends Denise Simone and Rusty Wilson to start the Company of Fools theater company there. Willis took the stage in Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love,” while Robin Williams, Jody Foster and Second City also graced its stage, a few leaving their mark on dressing room walls.

Company of Fools’ penchant for offering high-quality theater in a small mountain town was honored with a Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2004.

Company of Fools merged with Sun Valley Museum of Art for several years. After Company of Fools closed during the pandemic, the Liberty Theater company was formed as a new non-profit theater company. The Sun Valley Museum of Art offered to gift The Liberty Theater Company the building contingent on raising $1.7 million for renovations to fix structural deficiencies and install a state-of-the-art HVAC system necessitated by the pandemic.

The building would be made available to other theater groups and non-profits for film festivals, plays, concerts, lectures, movies and student productions upon reopening, said Carwithen.

The Liberty Theatre Company is no stranger to valley theater lovers. Most of the thespians involved, including John and Melodie-Taylor Mauldin, Aly Wepplo, Chris Carwithen, David Janeski, Claudia McCain and Matt Musgrove, have appeared in numerous Company of Fools productions. They also have taken part in productions of Laughing Stock Theater, The Spot and St. Thomas Playhouse, as well as numerous cabaret and other musical shows.

They’ve already shown their desire to produce quality theater with such productions as the they can put on ranging from a madcap version of “The Hound of Baskervilles” to the absorbing and inventive “The Last Five Years.”

None of them can entertain the idea of seeing the Liberty Theatre sit vacant or close for good. And neither can many of their fans.

“It’s just a magnificent structure. It’s such an iconic part of Hailey, and the theater group that’s trying to save it is so fun, it would be a shame to lose it,” said Yanna Lantz.

Julie Weston has spent many an evening inside the theater and she says she was particularly impressed by “Grounded,” a play which explored a new world in which robots fight wars and featured the audience sitting on stage around the dimensions of a fighter drone.

“The play really gave us a window onto the world, and the Joe Lavigne’s sets have been so imaginative over the years,” she said. “I’ve been to nearly all the plays that were presented there over the years,  and I love that theater. It’s a cultural icon for Hailey, and we need it.”

Claudia Aulum noted that there was a void as libraries and art centers reopened following the pandemic but the Liberty remained closed.

“It’s a place where the feeling of community begins as soon as you walk in,” she said. “You waved to people you knew, stepped on the toes of someone you didn’t. Smiled at each other because that’s what we do in theaters. You relaxed into your seat, waited for the lights to dim and held your breath as the curtains opened with a gorgeous swish.

With our help, she added, the Liberty will be bringing people together, catering to a community that thrives on shared experiences, for a long time to come.

Want to know more? Visit www.LibertyTheatrecompany.org  or call 208-582-8388.

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