Arts July 28, 2008

On With the Show

NexStage looking to own its Ketchum venue and more

When the Mott Family Foundation recently announced intentions to sell the nexStage Theatre building, theatergoers held their collective breath.

The question quivered in the air: What would become of the nexStage, the dearly loved building with the pennant-topped tower situated on Ketchum’s Main Street?
In a town with a love for art and entertainment and a scarcity of venues, the building is a unique and valued member of the performing arts community. It is used for a variety of community events, but primarily serves as a permanent venue for the many theatrical productions and classes of the nexStage.

This non-profit organization stages performances of music, theatre and play readings throughout the year, and seasonally offers after-school classes and a summer workshop for kids. The group also hosts the Shakespeare Festival each summer featuring one of the bard’s plays in a picnic setting at Ketchum’s Forest Service Park and the popular Renaissance Faire at the Festival Meadows in Sun Valley.

The group has historically rented the facility for the token price of $1 per year. And what a venue they got for the money! The building’s main arena has 264 foldaway seats with professional lighting and high-tech sound systems. The entrance area is large enough for trunk shows like those held each fall by trendy children’s clothing company Oilily and the back ballroom is fragrant with spruces and pines each winter with the Festival of Trees fund-raiser.

Year-round, its marquee serves as a town crier for community events.

So you see, this isn’t just a building to the Valley’s residents and visitors; it is viewed as a true cultural center.
With characteristic verve and creativity, the theatre group and its leader, Kathy Wygle, refused to see the Mott decision as a final curtain call. Instead, they decided to attempt to purchase the building from the Foundation.

And the Mott family, being great supporters of the performing arts and not wanting to unseat the theatre with the Foundation’s decision to remove itself from ownership, has agreed to work with the group to secure the treasured real estate, Wygle says.
The fund-raising campaign includes the purchase price of the building, plus funds to enhance the facility so that it serves the needs of the community even more, Wygle says.

“We have great plans!”

Among them is a plan to remodel the building so that it not only contains its current theatre space, lobby and adjoining rooms—but also uses the virtually unused “back building” as an additional theatre or dance studio (or both), as well as support space and storage.

To achieve these ends, which would double the size of the facility and secure the nexStage for future generations, the group launched a capital campaign in the summer of 2006. The deadline for the purchase of the building is year end, when lovers of the performing arts may be able to breathe again as they watch with anticipation the next act in the development of live theatre in the Wood River Valley.

This article appears in the Winter 2007 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.