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Stebens Children’s Theatre seeking $150,000

Stebens Children’s Theatre in Mason City has launched a campaign to raise $150,000 for repairs and improvements to its building and to replace outdated equipment and furnishings.

About $60,000 has been raised so far, and work to replace the exterior siding is almost complete.
“We will use the next couple of months to secure the additional money to continue with updates and improvements to the facility both inside and out,” said Barb Goetz, a Stebens board member who is leading the capital campaign along with Marti Rodamaker, president and chief executive officer of First Citizens National Bank.

Besides the siding, which was recently replaced by Larry Elwood Construction, other projects include installation of new sound and lighting systems, replacement of auditorium seating, replacement of the air conditioner, interior painting, exterior landscaping, and additional parking.

The Stebens Children’s Theatre building, 616 N. Delaware Avenue, was purchased in 1988 through a grant made possible from the Bertha Stebens Foundation. An addition to the original building was constructed in 1991. It includes a lobby, offices, workshop and rest rooms.

More than 2,551 students have attended classes and 178 productions have been staged at Stebens.
“Now we find ourselves needing to update and provide general maintenance and restoration of this community treasure,” Goetz said.

Donors will be recognized in printed program materials and permanently within the theater. Lead gifts of $5,000 are being sought from theater patrons and community leaders, but any amount is appreciated, Goetz said.

Volunteer labor has been and will continue to be used wherever possible with this project. Seven rooms and outdoor signs have recently been repainted a rear outdoor stairway rebuilt by volunteers.

The Stebens board of directors, along with parents, students, staff and community volunteers donated 10,500 hours of their time last year alone, Goetz said.

“With community support of this project, we will be able to complete the much overdue and needed improvements and allow Stebens to continue as the premier children’s theatre of North Iowa,” she said.

Stebens Children’s Theatre is a treasure for the Mason City community, enhancing life through education and the arts, Rodamaker said. “The performing arts are an integral part of a balanced education. Participation helps prepare students to live and work in a world that is increasingly team-oriented. Stebens Children’s Theatre is a key player, providing an early foundation in dramatic arts for elementary through high school children.”

Notable alumni include screen and stage actress Tanna Frederick, and Matthew Moul, who shared an Emmy for his editing work on the reality TV series “Project Runway.”

Stebens’ executive director is Tom Ballmer, who has a master’s in fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He came to Stebens in 1995 and has written more than 10 plays and directed more than 175. Sally Pressly, who also has a master’s in fine arts from University of North Carolina, instructs classes and leads workshops at Stebens.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Stebens Children’s Theatre at 616 N. Delaware Ave., Mason City IA 50401.
For more information on the capital campaign, contact Barb Goetz at 641-425-6951.

Stebens Children’s Theatre Project Plan
Replace the rotten siding and shake roof with maintenance-free steel siding and roofing
Install new energy-efficient exterior lighting for safety
Add canopies to south and west entrances
Install fire doors
Replace seats in auditorium
Replace stage curtain
Install new sound and lighting system
Install new phone system
Repaint lobby, auditorium and rest rooms
Replace laminate and some flooring
Resurface and add additional parking lot
Replacement/repair of sidewalks
Tree trimming and replacement of landscaping around theater
Install new air conditioner
Provide a deferred maintenance account

Stebens Children’s Theatre Fact Sheet
Mission Statement: Introduce young people to live theater by providing instruction and handsñon experience in all facets of production while offering quality family entertainment to the North Iowa area.
*Tom Ballmer, who has a master of fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina, has been the full-time director since 1995. He received the 2002 American Alliance for Theatre and Education Youth Theater Director of the Year Award. He has written more than 10 plays and directed more than 175.
*Sally Pressly, who also has a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of North Carolina, developed and implemented a model theater in education program that is used at preschools throughout North Iowa. She also is an instructor in the tier classes at Stebens and leads the workshops at the theater.
*The theatre also employees a costumer, a box office manager and bookkeeper and has six contracted employees including the set builder, choreographer, musical director, makeup artist, scene painter and the sound and light technical director.
*Organized in 1984 with eight very enthusiastic children and one part-time director.
*2,555 children have attended weekly classes or clinics.
*Produced 178 main stage performances.
*The touring productions of Stebens have entertained more than 420 audiences (91,000 people) throughout North Iowa and Southern Minnesota
*Housed two productions annually for the Mason City High School drama students.
*Provides free performances to residents of Opportunity Village, Francis Lauer Youth Services and Four Oaks, as well as to nursing home residents and other seniors citizens.
*Stebens welcomes all children. There are scholarships for “tier” classes which meet weekly. Currently, 40 of the 150 students are receiving need-based scholarships. All this is made possible because seven businesses sponsor the productions, 50 businesses help financially, and 240 volunteers (adults and youth) donate 10,500 hours of their time annually.|

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