UPDATED 09/24/2012 07:42 p.m.
After almost 30 years, the Theater at Lime Kiln will close for good. Executive Director Tony Russell made the announcement during a Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night.
The Theater's last day will be September 30. Russell has rallied for months to raise money to renovate the outdoor theater and keep it running. But it wasn't enough.
Here is Russell's statement to the Board:
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors. I want to update you with regards to Theater at Lime Kiln.
As Executive Director of the theater, I have recommended to the theater’s Board, that as of September 30, 2012, Theater at Lime Kiln be closed.
Consistent with the Virginia Labor Laws, we will be issuing final pay checks to our 2 Full time and 4 part time employees on Saturday, September 29, following the American Shakespeare Center’s performance of Twelfth Night. We should be able to conclude the season debt free.
During the month of October we will:
- Return all community donations made to the Help Stoke the Kiln fund. With pledges, this amounts to some $60,000
- We will be advising the USDA Rural Development that the loan of $93,000 which we had qualified for, with the help of our state and federal representatives, will now not be required and is available to be reassigned
- We will advise Lowe’s Home Improvement Center that the funds they had ear marked for renovations to the Kiln space, will also now, not be required
We had sought funding from both the County and the City to keep the Kiln in business, in a manner consistent with other municipalities across the state. I would like to thank the Board of Supervisors for their consideration of our request. Since the Kiln is now closing, we withdraw this application.
To me it is a travesty of asset utilization that the County and City could not find a way to help fund this unique, performing arts center; one that is recognized by the Virginia Commission for the Arts as a worthy recipient of the highest level of state funding.
In ongoing discussions with some of the same state and federal representatives that helped the theater secure the USDA loan, it appears that they too think that it is a travesty of asset utilization. They agree for two reasons, municipalities across the state are investing in the performing arts as a means of generating tourism income, while we appear to be divesting. Of particular concern is the fact that our Regional Tourism Board has been allowed to accumulate a ‘treasure chest’ of some $400,000 of tax payers’ money and that no portion of this can be used to maintain, what in their view, is a major tourism attraction for our region. This frustration is shared across party lines.
Today’s Roanoke Times ran a story on Senator Mark Warner announcing that an $815K federal grant for music, arts & recreation-based tourism had been obtained for Southwest Virginia. Paraphrasing Senator Warner, “What always bothered him as Governor, was people would go to Asheville, N.C., there they developed a whole music culture, artisans and eco-tourism area. He always felt Southwest Virginia had better venues, (such as Lime Kiln), just as good artisans, and much better music.” He continued, “Others may have mountains, but they don’t have the rich history, the bluegrass music, the rich Appalachian culture. There’s a whole combination here that frankly, others don’t have.”
Personally, I think Asheville N. C. is synonymous with Staunton VA, and it is very sad with regards to the Senator’s comments on “better venues” that for Rockbridge County and the City of Lexington the operative word is now had. It is ironic that our last performance is Twelfth Night in which Sir Andrew Aguecheek bemoans his position with the line… “O had I but followed the arts!” Thank you for your time and consideration.
A theater may be forced to close if it doesn't receive help. The Theater at Lime Kiln in Lexington needs money to keep going and we're talking big bucks.
The theater was built on a 200-year-old lime quarry. Since 1984 it has showcased plays and musical acts during the summer. A place were people can watch plays and live music alongside butterflies.
Executive Director Tony Russell fell in love with this place years ago and now he's trying to save it.
"We're surviving on a shoe string," says Russell, "We're living from hand to mouth."
Lime Kiln needs $100,000 by the end of September to cover operating costs. It needs another $300,000 by the end of the year for renovations. Otherwise it's curtains for the theater.
"I think that would be an absolute shame," says Russell.
There are three theaters. The kiln is the main stage.
"She's served us for 18 years but it's looking a little bit worse for the wear," says Russell.
The kiln's wall needs to be stabilized. There's water damage and the lighting house roof is caving in.
"When it rains we have an old tent that we use which isn't perfect," says Russell.
The tent has holes in it.
All of the infrastructure is original. That means it's 28 years old and showing its age.
"We can't continue with a crumbling infrastructure," says Russell.
Russell is optimistic that people will help out and restore this theater to its former glory.
This weekend the Theater at Lime Kiln will host the Virginia Craft Beer Festival.