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Anonymous donor helps keep Burbank's Colony Theatre going

February 12, 2014|By Mike Boehm
  • An anonymous donor matched fundraising efforts to help keep the Colony Theatre in Burbank running. The Theatre is pictured on Tuesday, October 30, 2012.
An anonymous donor matched fundraising efforts to help… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

With apologies to Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, the title of this theater tale could be "Out of the Woods."

The Colony Theatre in Burbank said a fundraising push that began around Thanksgiving snowballed into about $260,000 -- more than five times what initially was expected and enough to put the theater on secure fiscal footing 16 months after it had announced it was on the verge of closing,  according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hundreds of supporters "opened their hearts and wallets," Barbara Beckley, the Colony’s co-founder and artistic director, told the Los Angeles Times. "Needless to say, our gratitude is boundless.” 

Beckley said half the credit goes to a subscriber who, requesting anonymity, initially pledged $25,000 in matching funds for the 2013 year-end drive. The aim, Beckley said, was to go beyond the company's usual $10,000 to $15,000 take for holiday-season donations.

When other donors came through with the $25,000 in two weeks, she said, the matching-funds subscriber "was amazed and said, 'keep going.'"

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He wound up matching about $130,000 from other donors. In making good on the pledge, Beckley said, he “gulped and made jokes” about giving till it hurts. 

The drive’s success means the Colony will put on five plays in the 2014-15 season, to be announced in the spring, up from this season's four, Beckley said.

The 268-seat Colony's troubles became public just before Halloween 2012, when it announced it would have to close if it couldn’t raise $49,000 immediately and $500,000 by year’s end.

Beckley said that the emergency fundraising brought in about $150,000 over several months. That was enough to keep the theater going until the Marilyn P. and Wayne H. Kohl Memorial Fund stepped in with a $342,000 grant that stabilized the Colony's finances, enabling it to announce the current season, which began last fall. 

Unlike in 2012, Beckley said, when “there was a desperation” to the campaign, the recent success “was people investing in our future” in the course of normal fundraising.

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