Sunrise Theater Improvements Under Way
A new roof is the opening act of what Sunrise Theater officials hope will be a long-running show of improvements sustained by generous donors, popular programming and fiscal responsibility.
“We’ve tightened up the ship, and there are more checks and balances in place. We’re also making sure that people don’t make decisions unilaterally,” said Loretta Aldridge, president of the Sunrise Preservation Group (SPG) Board of Directors. “We’ve come around and have a really good team in place that is focusing on a lot of things.”
The current state of affairs is a far cry from nine months ago, when money problems and internal finger-pointing left some wondering if the downtown Southern Pines entertainment icon would survive.
“We went through a really rough time. We were just kind of getting by and there was so much contention,” Board Treasurer Craig Pryor said. “Since then, we’ve got everyone focused. Now it’s like happy days are here again. It’s turned around to an extent that I think is amazing.”
From last July through the end of March, total income was up 39 percent to $203,527, expenses were 2.6 percent lower at $158,952, and net income was almost $54,612. The nonprofit had an operating deficit of approximately $15,000 for the same period of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
“The people love this place and they don’t want to see it go under,” Pryor said. “Every time the cry goes out, the public responds in a positive manner.”
The clarion call last year was sounded by Joyce Reehling, of Pinehurst, who wrote a guest column in The Pilot calling for establishment of the Committee That Never Meets.
Essentially, Reehling suggested “a committee of about 300 of us who simply ante up $100 apiece” to save the Sunrise and not have to meet or “join anything.”
The response was overwhelming, and Aldridge credits Reehling for “getting the ball rolling.”
“Her love of the Sunrise and that article changed everything,” Aldridge said.
Reehling, who retired here in 2008 from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials, said she is just one of many people who have worked hard for the Sunrise for many years.
“I wish I could claim as much credit as she (Aldridge) gives me,” Reehling said. “There have been people banging on the drum for a long time. Perhaps I just picked the right drum at the right time.
“Frankly, the real praise goes to everyone who wrote a check. I was stunned by the amount of money we ultimately raised.”
SPG, the nonprofit that owns and operates the building, was formed in 1998 to keep the theater alive. The Arts Council of Moore County (ACMC) donated the building and transferred the theater’s operation to SPG that year.
ACMC rents the performance space to host its classical concert series, its comedy series and occasionally a youth summer theater camp.
Reehling said that supporters of the Sunrise who want to protect their investment should become sustaining donors.
“I think it’s like PBS — if everybody gave a little consistently we wouldn’t have these frequent pleas for help,” she said. “It’s a mindset, so we have to be creative about ways to engage people in the Sunrise, because it is a use-it-or-lose it proposition.
“The difference between a town with a Sunrise Theater and one without will show up in dollars, and I don’t think I’m extrapolating very far.
“Once something is gone, it never comes back. That would be a black eye, not only for Southern Pines, but the whole county.”
Pryor said the board is developing a new membership program to replace Friends of the Sunrise, has scheduled its first annual Dinner Dance fundraiser for June 2 at Broadhearth, and has formed a Funds Development Committee.
“That committee is focused on generating mostly capital funds for the theater,” he said.
Work on the new roof was scheduled to begin last Tuesday, but the threat of rain has delayed it.
The $48,000 project is being overseen for free by Robert Anderson, a principal at Anderson Architecture in Southern Pines.
“When we went out to bid this time, everybody was bidding the same project,” Anderson said. “Before, the proposals coming in were inconsistent in scope of work, as well as the types of products used and the quality of installation proposed.”
Anderson said the age of the building — it was constructed in 1898 — and a tenant on the second floor presented unique challenges.
“We had to go in and reinforce the roof structure. We wanted to correct that before we put 20 workers and loads of roofing material up there,” he said. “We also had to postpone the project until after the Metropolitan Opera season was over due to the antennae on the roof.”
Pryor said the new roof will be “first class.”
“We’re stripping the roof down to the original planks,” he said.
Future projects include a sprinkler system in the basement, a new movie screen, curtains, improved stage lighting and converting all product delivery to digital format.
“It’s an old lady that requires a lot of care,” Pryor said, “but it’s quite a place with good bones.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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