MERCED — Playhouse Merced will hearken back to the heyday of the USO with its annual gala fund-raiser Saturday at the Merced Senior Center.
Featuring the jaunty tunes of the Preservation Big Band, the gala will be a rollicking celebration of the music and performances of the 1940s.
"By far my favorite part is the opportunity to meet our patrons and actually get some time to talk to them about the Playhouse and hear some of their favorite stories they have had while the Playhouse has been in its current building since 1994," Artistic Director Rob Hypes said.
"We also have some incredible Playhouse performers who are singing. It's important to me that if our community is willing to continue to donate to us that we also provide them as high quality of entertainment as we can," Hypes said.
The event is the largest fund-raiser of the year for Playhouse Merced, with all proceeds going to help the company launch its 20th season.
"At the start of the season, we are paying off royalties for our current line-up of shows, hiring staff to make those shows happen and even providing maintenance to the facility," Hypes said. "In addition, we are gearing up for our conservatory programming, as well as continuing to pay down whatever debt we have accrued last year or even the last 20 years.
"Ticket sales simply aren't enough to pay for all of the programming we provide year round, so every fund-raiser we hold and donation we receive helps to defray the overhead costs throughout the year," he said.
Marilyn Fauerbach, president of Playhouse Merced's board of directors, loves how the gala showcases the support Playhouse Merced receives from the community.
"Community support is always my favorite part of the evening," she said. "It's great to see so many people give of their time and money to support live theater in Merced. It is actually unbelievable that our community can support a theater of the size and quality of the Playhouse."
Hypes thinks this support is so strong because, in part, of what arts community patrons give back to Merced.
"Studies have found that on average an arts attendee will spend $21 in the community before or after an event," he said. "Well, we had 12,000 attendees last season, so even at the minimum, $150,000 to $250,000 was spent at local businesses by our patrons.
"Even the actors that rehearse with us all go on at least one coffee run during rehearsal breaks," he said. "That's probably roughly $7,500 a year if they all got the small coffee and you know at least most of them go for the frappuccino."
Board member David Zacharias agreed.
"This event is so important to support because of the tremendous contribution Playhouse Merced makes as a fabulous source of entertainment, as a fantastic education and training vehicle for our youth through our conservatory, and as an important contributor to the economy of downtown Merced," he said.
"It's a time where so many people come together with the common purpose of supporting outstanding live theater in Merced," Zacharias said. "With this shared purpose, they enjoy an evening of fellowship, great food and fantastic entertainment while raising much needed funds."
Fauerbach is pleased with the community response and hopes it will continue to support the arts in Merced.
"I believe that the arts are essential in the lives of all of us," she said. "Theater brings joy, fulfillment, information and often dialogue that's needed to stimulate our thinking."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Playhouse Merced's annual fund-raising gala
WHEN: Saturday, doors open at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Merced Senior Center, 755 W. 15th St.
COST: Tickets are $75 per person and tables of 8 for $1,000; includes priority seating and free drinks.
INFO: Buy tickets at (209) 725-8587 or visit the box office at 452 W. Main St. in downtown Merced, from 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.