When the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of the Cortland Repertory Theatre in March and canceled all productions, the theater had to get creative, said Kerby Thompson, the producing artistic director.
Socially distant performances like the Stories in the Park and Ghosts in the Park shows at Little York’s Dwyer Park were two examples of how the theater entertained people.
Residents appreciated those efforts by the theater as it was awarded $7,000 by the Cortland Community Foundation from its National Philanthropy Day fundraiser after drawing the most donations from among 40 participating nonprofits.
The day allowed for people to donate to their favorite local nonprofits with top recipients awarded further grants from the foundation, according to the foundation’s website.
The theater was one of 40 participants in the event Nov. 15, said Thomas Gallagher, the president of the foundation.
About $380,000 was donated to the organizations, plus $30,000 awarded to the top four organizations in two categories, a record for the 9-year-old event, Gallagher said.
This surprised him as he thought people have spent so much helping out nonprofits throughout the year already.
“But I forgot that Cortland was such a giving community,” he said with a laugh.
Most money raised:
• 1st place ($10,000) – YWCA of Cortland with $83,009 raised.
• 2nd place ($4,500) – Central New York Living History Center with $57,935 raised.
• 3rd place ($2,000) – Lime Hollow Nature Center with $32,047 raised.
• 4th place ($1,000) – YMCA with $27,212 raised.
Highest number of donations received:
• 1st place ($7,000) – Cortland Repertory Theatre with 190 donations.
• 2nd place ($2,250) – Cortland County Historical Society with 101 donations.
• 3rd place ($2,250) – Center for the Arts in Homer with 58 donations.
• 4th place ($1,000) – Cortland Free Library with 42 donations.
“It’s really encouraging to see the community is really supporting all of the nonprofits and charities in Cortland County,” Thompson said. “Just seeing this support from the community and the (Cortland) Community Foundation, it’s fantastic.”
Thompson said the theater will use the money to help cover operational costs and pay for part-time staff for the early part of 2021. It will also be able to be used to cover upfront costs of traveling acts should they be able to return next year.
While the year was hard having to cancel shows, the creativity that was brought on in the forms of the Dwyer Park shows may carry over into next year; both Stories in the Park and Ghosts in the Park shows were well received, Thompson said.
Additionally, with the theater celebrating its 50th year in 2021, Thompson said it will look to stage virtual performances and safe indoor events like the art show it had last August.
Thompson said the high number of donations showed that the theater wasn’t going anywhere, even during the pandemic, and is ready to come back when it’s safe.
“Once this is past, we will be back,” he said.