Playhouse Square shines brightly today thanks to the dedication and foresight of individuals who saw the theaters as both a symbol of Cleveland’s past and an inspiration for the future. To honor their efforts and further its not-for-profit mission, in 2014 Playhouse Square began to pursue its largest philanthropic effort, the $100 million Advancing the Legacy Campaign.
The successful conclusion of the campaign was announced by Playhouse Square Board of Trustees Chair Amy Brady at the organization’s annual Center Stage Benefit on July 24; the campaign goal was exceeded with a total of $110 million raised from 2590 donors, nearly half of which were individuals. Foundation and corporations also contributed generously.
“Although the funds raised provide for the continued vibrance of Playhouse Square’s historic theaters, this campaign is about much more than buildings,” said Brady. “Advancing the Legacy allows us to grow in each part of our not-for-profit mission – bringing the best performing arts to our community, advancing arts education and impacting the regional economy.”
Lead gifts to Advancing the Legacy, led by chairs Thomas Adler, K.K. Sullivan and Daniel Walsh, include $10 million from KeyBank, $10 million from The Richard J. Fasenmyer Foundation, $9 million from Christopher and Sara Connor, $3 million from Pat and John Chapman, $3 million from The George Gund Foundation and $3 million from The Kelvin & Eleanor Smith Foundation.
In honor of a recent gift of an undisclosed amount from an anonymous donor, the Ohio Theatre was renamed the “Mimi Ohio Theatre” in honor of the donor’s wife, who means the world to their family.
About Advancing the Legacy Objectives
Saved from imminent destruction in the 1970s, the historic Playhouse Square theaters were renovated and reopened in the 1980s. Thanks to the campaign, Playhouse Square has completed restoration work and painting in the KeyBank State Theatre; the re-creation of the Gund Foundation Lobby in the Mimi Ohio Theatre; and enhancements to the guest experience including upgrades to restrooms, sound, lighting and HVAC systems throughout the complex. In 2020, new seats and carpeting will be installed in the KeyBank State. Funds will provide for the ongoing care of Playhouse Square’s historic theaters.
The cornerstone of community engagement and education programming at Playhouse Square is theater for young audiences. With funds raised through the campaign, Playhouse Square has secured long-term funding for education programming that serves students and families in neighborhoods throughout the region and introduced a sensory-friendly programming initiative dedicated to increasing access and inclusion for children and families impacted by autism spectrum disorder, other sensory or social sensitivities or other special needs. The organization will host Cleveland’s first sensory-friendly performance of a touring Broadway production on August 31: Disney’s The Lion King.
The $16 million Dazzle the District project, including the renowned GE Chandelier, was made possible by this campaign.
With remarkable resources available for the creation of new works, bolstered by the recent expansion of the Ohio Film Tax Credit to include theater, Playhouse Square has the potential to attract pre-Broadway productions to Cleveland, fueling the local economy and bolstering the reputation of both the organization and the city within the performing arts industry. “The production fund will bring national focus and prestige to the organization and let the arts community know that the greatest road to Broadway is from Playhouse Square to the middle of Manhattan,” said K.K. Sullivan.
“We have been working to expand the tax incentive to include theater for the past six years with the enthusiastic support of our friends at the Greater Cleveland Film Commission,” said Playhouse Square President and CEO Gina Vernaci. “The passage of this legislation is welcome news to Broadway producers who are eager to bring work here and we are eager to see Broadway create more jobs in Ohio.”
At the start of the campaign, the Playhouse Square endowment was $16 million; it is now $27.4 million.