They’ve called it “Encore Gala” for some time now, but the title of Rochester Civic Theatre’s annual fundraiser will take on added resonance and meaning this week when the event is held at the historic Chateau Theatre in downtown Rochester.
It will mark the first time since Barnes & Noble closed up shop and turned out the lights at the Chateau last year that the building will be open for a public event. And that sense of an old building making its reappearance is fueling an enthusiasm and excitement for the city’s biggest arts social event of the year, said Gregory Stavrou, the civic theatre’s executive director.
Tickets for the civic theatre’s only annual fundraiser sold out about two weeks ago. An estimated 300 people are expected to attend an event that typically brings in half that number. The gala will be held on Saturday, with VIP reception starting at 5 p.m. and regular ticket holders at 6 p.m.
“It’s the best we’ve ever done at the civic theatre here for a fundraising event,” Stavrou said. “It’s the Chateau, but it’s also acknowledgment of the successes of the Rochester Civic Theatre over these past five years.”
Stavrou said organizers have been working hard to create a memorable event, beginning with red carpet treatment for guests.
Once people walk inside the Chateau, they will be greeted by live jazz downstairs and appetizers. Guests then will proceed upstairs for dinner prepared by Tessa Leung, creator of Sontes restaurant and owner of Grand Rounds Brew Pub. After dinner, guests will return downstairs for dessert and coffee and live music provided by LP & the 45s.
“We are working hard to create a wonderful celebratory ambiance that is also elegant,” Stavrou said. “We have this wonderful opportunity in the Chateau. Frankly, the Chateau is not in such great shape. It needs a lot of work. So, I’ve been from the beginning talking about the elegance amidst the ruins.”
The event is also meant to highlight the strides the Rochester Civic Theatre has made within the last five years as a go-to place for professional and community theater productions and music events. During that time, the theater has seen a “steady increase in attendance” at all of its shows, Stavrou said. Between 45,000 and 50,000 people now attend shows at the civic theatre each year.
Stavrou added that more than 60 percent of the civic theatre’s revenue now comes from ticket sales and tuition, a far superior way to bring in revenue than, say, renting out space to other groups.
What that means is that “we’re earning that revenue by providing art to people,” he said. The money raised through Encore will support the theater in general, as well as arts education programming and outreach for a range of audiences, from students to inmates in the Olmsted County jail.
“To celebrate those accomplishments at the Chateau Theatre, which has an 80-history in our community and is in the very early stages of being re-envisioned and recreated, just seemed like a very good idea,” he said.