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Board members look to save SART

2015 SART production of Pump Boys and Dinettes (Photo courtesy: Mars Hill University Department of Theatre Arts)

A well-known repertory theater in Mars Hill is on the verge of extinction if board members can’t raise enough money to keep it going.

Jim Brown, president of the board for the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, commonly referred to as SART, says the theater’s renovation helped contribute to the decline of revenue.

He said for two seasons, the show traveled from location to location for its productions.

“That’s made it very difficult for us in terms of maintaining our audience base for people to know where we are,” said Brown.

He said that’s not the only contributing factor.

“I think that in terms of rural development over the past 10-20 years, what we’ve seen in this area and this community, our audience base has aged out, and getting a new audience base in has been difficult for us,” said Brown.

The completed renovations, including new stairs outside, new seats, carpet and lighting inside, plus a new black box theater next door, may come too late for SART.

“Just sort of disappointed that we're at this critical juncture, this critical moment where we've got these great facilities and yet we just don't have the capacity right now to produce the shows that we'd like to produce in this space,” said Brown.

He and his team aren’t yet ready to throw in the towel -- they've created a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the theater.

Next month, SART will host a celebration fundraiser to kickstart the theater’s survival, starting with a show which was developed in the theater years ago.

“'Hard Travelin'' is a multimedia solo show about Woody Guthrie that I premiered at the New York Fringe theater in 2010, and it's been touring since then,” said Randy Noojin, a New York-based performer and SART alum.

“Thirty years ago, I was, you know, doing chorus roles up here,” said Noojin.

Now, he’s coming back to help revitalize the theater company.

“Too much value to so many people for it to go away,” said Noojin.

That value extends to the students of Mars Hill University who use the theater when SART is in its offseason.

“It would be a loss for us in the Theatre Arts Department to not have SART. There's no question about it, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't follow through with our theater arts students to have that experience,” said Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford.

He said he hope SART will have a rebirth so that it can continue.

“My enduring desire is that out of this, there will be a new SART, a new era of SART and we're asking that people be a part of the summer celebration, be a part of that rebirthing experience as we go forward,” he said.


HARD TRAVELIN' WITH WOODY

7 p.m. July 27-29

2:30 p.m. July 30

Owen Theatre

Donations for Ticket

Call 828-689-1239 for reservations or go to sartplays.org for more information

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