Saved from the brink of closing the curtains for good by an outpouring of community support, Freeport Factory Stage hosted an inaugural mixer Tuesday night for a Friends group that organizers hope will raise money and supply volunteers to keep the theater afloat.
The party attracted about 30 core supporters, who enjoyed pizza donated by neighboring Petrillo’s and a selection of drinks. Guests also were treated to a touch of piano jazz courtesy of John Linscott.
During the mixer, artistic director Julie George-Carlson, who founded the theater with her husband, Bud Carlson, gave the assembled group a sneak peek of upcoming shows.
A roast of music theater tunes called “Forbidden Broadway” closes out the year with two performances on New Year’s Eve. With the arrival of 2012 will come performances of “Glass Menagerie,” “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” and “A Little Night Music.” While plans are still in the works, the theater hopes to stage “Our Town” during the Fourth of July holiday season.
“After that we’ll see how we do in building an audience,” George-Carlson told the crowd.
In the meantime, those who appreciate the company’s work need to do more than keep buying tickets.
“There are lots of ways to get involved,” George-Carlson told the supporters gathered at the party. “We need everything. We obviously can’t do it all ourselves.”
In addition to cash donations, Freeport Factory Stage needs volunteers to help with a range of tasks, including ushering, marketing, carpentry, scene design and staffing the box office and concession stands.
“After the first six months, we quickly realized this wasn’t going to work as a commercial venue,” Carlson told me. He explained that one of the theater’s main expenses comes in the form of talent.
“We want to pay actors the going equity rate, so they have a living wage,” Carlson said.
The theater itself features 99 seats and offers audiences an up-close and personal view of the action.
“It’s very intimate and comfortable,” theater fan Lianne Mitchell of Yarmouth told me. “It feels like you’re hanging out and being cozy.”
Michelle Zelkowitz of South Freeport has been active in theater circles for many years and appreciates what the Factory Stage has brought to this town best know for its shopping.
“I’m really glad it is here in Freeport,” Zelkowitz told me. “I think it will bring in more businesses to Freeport.”
George-Carlson alluded to this idea of arts organizations attracting other businesses, when she told the crowd that “with the (Nordica movie) theater across the street, we’re an arts district.”
Freeport innkeeper Monica Kissane, who owns the White Cedar Inn with her husband, attends shows whenever she’s able to get away from the bed and breakfast.
“I’m really, really happy there’s a live theater in Freeport,” Kissane told me. “If a guest is looking for something to do, I can tell them about the theater. The guests really appreciate that it’s here. I think it’s obvious the people who live here are looking for something other than the same old, same old.”
Freeport residents Catherine Carty-Wilbur and Tom Wilbur have attended a number of performances at the theater.
“The plays have been wonderful,” Carty-Wilbur told me. “It’s incredibly professional. I love the size. You feel like you’re almost part of the whole production.”
As the party made clear, it will take theater fans actually becoming a part of the productions for Freeport Factory Stage to remain in business.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: