Multi-Million Dollar Arts Facility Keeping With the Times

DOVER, DE - August 8, 2008 (WHYY) -- If dancing sailors and singing nurses is your thing, then Dover is the place to be. Tonight at seven is the final performance of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "South Pacific" at the Schwartz Center for the Arts, a multi-million dollar facility now in its sixth year in downtown Dover.


Inside the Schawrtz Center is quickly being transformed into a tropical paradise. It's the biggest event of the season, a presentation of the summer musical "South Pacific." "This is the first show I'll ever come to here at the theatre and I love South Pacific so I figured, let that be my first one," says resident Sean Irvin.


And while most of the better seats are gone, plenty are still available. But despite the fact that the show probably won't sell out, and at a time when many people are choosing a tank of gas over theatre tickets, officials at the center say they're in good shape. "This year and last year are probably the best years so far," says Donald Parks, Director of Programming and Foundation Development. We've been able to break even."


Parks also says funding is a never-ending challenger. "Every day it's something new that has to be taken care of," he says. "Because you know every time you turn the lights on in the theatre, that's 600 bucks."


And to keep the light on, officials say the next step is critical. They say if the art center is ever going to be the economic anchor to downtown Dover, merchants need to be on the same page. "What we have to do now is educate the downtown people that you can't close your doors at 5 o'clock and expect to have customers from the theatre, it won't happen," says Parks.


Some store owners say it's not quite that simple, but agrees that everybody needs to work together. "I think that many businesses downtown stand ready to cooperate with the Schwartz Theatre any way that we can develop a better relationship to make downtown not only grow but thrive," says store owner Thomas Smith of Delaware Made.


Officials say a collaboration with Wesley College and Delaware State University, along wit aggressive fundraising and marketing campaigns have helped keep the art center going in this difficult economy. •





NOTE: RealPlayer is needed to view our videos. Download it for free.