Wildish Theater Nears First Curtain Call

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

WILDISH THEATER The Richard E. Wildish Community Theater is set to open this fall. Organizers are seeking volunteers to form a "Friends of the Theater"-type management group. Call 746-1651 to volunteer or make a donation. To book the Wildish for an event, call 736-4033.

SPRINGFIELD - After six years of hope, hype, hoopla and delays, showtime at the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater is now just weeks away.

Work crews are putting final touches on the renovated building at 630 Main St., in preparation for the curtain to rise in November at a downtown venue that's being dubbed "the Wildish."

"This is exciting. I get pumped up every time I talk about it," said Tom Draggoo, a local banker who serves as president of the Springfield Renaissance Development Corp. The volunteer-led nonprofit group bought the former McKenzie Theater building in 2000 and has since raised more than $2 million to refurbish the space.

"It's taken a lot of work to get to this point," Draggoo said.

Fundraising has been a monumental challenge for the group, which initially hoped to open the theater by 2003. The nonprofit continues to apply for grants and seek private donations to pay off about $600,000 still owed on the building.

"We don't want there to be any debt when we open, but there is some right now," said Draggoo, adding that theater rental fees and ticket prices will depend on the level of funding needed when the Wildish opens.

Once the 284-seat theater is paid for, it will have to bring in enough cash to cover the building's maintenance, utilities and insurance costs. Draggoo figures that can be accomplished if the facility is booked nine times a month, although a rental fee schedule has not yet been established.

The theater's first live performance is slated to be a high school play on Nov. 2, presented by students of the Academy of Arts and Academics. Classes at the new, 86-student alternative high school begin next week. …