There’s a tired-looking, castle-like edifice that looms over a street corner in Lewiston, Idaho. Though worn and weary on the outside, it’s bursting with massive energy on the inside. This is the home of the Lewiston Civic Theatre, which has been a fixture in the community for the last 52 years, delighting patrons with productions like “Rent,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” and other award-winning theatrical entertainment.
“I see the value of live performance as an enriching facet of our blue-collar community that changes the lives of those who attend the theater, and those who perform on stage.”
Jennifer Menegas, who sits on the Lewiston Civic Theatre Board of Directors, previously appeared in a number of Lewiston productions as a performer, and now she works on the event promotion side of things. “I see the value of live performance as an enriching facet of our blue-collar community that changes the lives of those who attend the theater, and those who perform on stage,” she says.
The Lewiston Civic Theatre is a nonprofit organization, run mostly by community volunteers, and it produces five main-stage productions a season, youth company productions, dinner theatres, art exhibits, and workshops. Jennifer feels fortunate that they do enough ticket sales to barely keep the doors open. But additional funds are required to support the structure’s physical needs, which was built in 1907.
How to put on a successful fundraising event.
Each year the Lewiston Civic Theatre hosts its Fine Arts Ball to raise the funds needed to make improvements to the builiding and to keep it up to code. Since 2013, the event theme has been “Legends of Music,” where bands and performers from all across the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley impersonate a variety of famous artists like Tina Turner, Pavarotti, Bruno Mars, Billie Holiday, and Garth Brooks.
Jennifer regards this year’s event, which was held in March, as a huge success. And there were a few key factors to make it so successful, she says.
First, she had the right talent. She hired a brilliant set of emcees, who are a couple of well known TV and radio personalities. And the performers provided excellent entertainment. Over 20 musicians participated at this year’s event.
Another important ingredient was the event “hook.” The “Legends of Music” was a music competition, and that kept things lively and exciting. Other ideas like live auctions may be overdone and uninteresting, says Jennifer.
“It was the best thing we did in terms of getting the word out.”
Jennifer laments the fact that her event promotion budget is very limited.
“Nonprofits don’t have a huge budget. When The Eagles come to town, they can afford billboards and 5" x 15"ads in the Tribune. We can’t.”
To drive awareness around the event, Jennifer worked with SpinGo to highlight “Legends of Music” on Inland360.com, a local entertainment publication and SpinGo partner. She was able to promote her event during the most effective days leading up to the event.
“It was the best thing we did in terms of getting the word out,” says Jennifer.
The show must go on.
The old building that rises over the corner of 6th Ave. and 8th St in Lewiston has stood proudly for over a century. It’s a cherished venue that has told countless stories and provided a stage for a community of performers. And thanks to a successful fundraising event, its curtains will remain open.
Next up for the Lewiston Civic Theatre: “Evita”