The Muny’s Leadership Talks $100-Million Second Century Capital Campaign
To coincide with The Muny’s 100th anniversary of bringing live theater to St. Louis, the organization has launched a $100-million Second Century Capital Campaign, with the goal of contributing half of funds raised to the institution’s endowment, and half to update the theatre’s facilities. However, The Muny is also focused on a larger goal that goes beyond raised capital.
“If we had two extraordinarily high net-worth individuals come forward and write us two checks for $50 million each, we’d meet our financial goal. But we’d fail our community engagement goal,” says board member and Capital Campaign Chairman Jim Turley. “It’s extraordinarily important to us that The Muny has, and always will be, a community asset. We want to make sure we can continue thriving, but also providing benefits like the 1500 free seats every night. I lived in New York for 15 years, and I can tell you that’s something you don’t see much on Broadway.”
President and CEO Denny Reagan, who is in his 50th season (yes, you read that right) agrees. “We are blessed to live in an extremely philanthropic community that believes in the value we bring,” he says. “This is an aggressive plan, and discussions about it began years ago. But I also think it is achievable. I’m confident we’ll meet our goals.”
The campaign officially began in January 2017 and will run until 2020, serendipitously coinciding with the first time in the organization’s life that it has reached out to supporters in this way. However, arrangements to begin facility improvements will begin as early as 2019.
“This is our first large, public campaign,” says The Muny’s director of advancement, Courtney Simms. It’s also particularly of note that the organization does not benefit from Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District taxes, as many similar local organizations do, and also has never had a capital campaign in its 100 years.
The Muny began developing the strategic plan back in 2014, asking critical questions about how to build on the pre-existing foundation to continue for another 100 years, and beyond. “We’ve known we needed to do a capital campaign for a long time. In the meantime we’ve focused on updating patron amenities, like the concession areas, plazas and restrooms,” says Simms.
But the stage and support facilities, where the actors, designers, directors and choreographers rehearse and perform the shows, significant renovations haven’t been done since the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. And while the patron facilities have been updated, the board and leadership have identified renovations from the stage back as one of the main keys to continued longevity. With the other half of funds raised invested in the endowment, the organization will be confidently positioned to bring live theatre to future generations in St. Louis; or Muny magic, as they call it.
“As far as the endowment, we want to get to the point where if something unexpected happens in the future, we have a fund to make sure we’re prepared,” Simms says, candidly. Funding will also benefit the organization’s many public initiatives, like the Technical Theatre Training (T3) program. High school students who participate in the T3 program have the opportunity to learn how to build, paint and structure a theatre set under tutelage from The Muny’s own production manager and technical director. The program, one of Simm’s favorites, gives students the chance to learn about viable career paths in theatre and the skills to pursue them.
“There are so many people in this town who I run into and tell me they’ve never been to The Muny before,” she says. “And I always say, ‘You have to come! It’s a gift, and it’s yours!’”
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