SEBRING-A theater-style model chair sits in the Highlands Little Theatre lobby, a reminder to patrons that a more comfortable viewing experience is in their hands.
The Sebring theater, which is in its 31st year in its present building, has launched one of its most ambitious renovation projects in recent years and needs the community's help to see it through.
Theater officials are raising money to put in "regular" theater-style seats with cup holders and add a slight slope to the back so patrons can see better and the floor level matches the mezzanine floor, said Vanessa Logsdon, executive director.
If the Little Theatre can raise $112,000 by March 1, they can get the improvements in place for the 2014-15 season, which starts in November. There is no set time-line, Logsdon explained, except they have a very short window to get the work done and will start on it when they can raise the required money by March of a certain year. So far they have about $12,000 for the fundraiser, which was launched in November.
"It's going pretty well. It's not going gang-busters," she added.
Pete Pollard, the current president of the theater's board of directors, hopes a community member who recognizes the value of the performing arts can make a sizeable donation.
Since the Little Theatre is a 501 c(3), donations can be used as tax write-offs.
The idea gained ground when the theater discontinued its dinner theater about three years ago.
Pollard said many community theaters have regular theater-style seating and introducing them at the Little Theatre will make it far more comfortable for patrons and also make it easier to get in and out.
Donors who give $250 or more can get their names on a plaque on one of the chairs. Those who contribute $1,000 or more will be invited to "an exclusive reveal party."
There also is a "Giving Tea" fundraiser set Feb. 22 to bolster the renovation fund, and Pollard said they are working on other fundraisers throughout the year.
Despite the new chairs, the theater will still remain an intimate community theater, he said. Right now, they can seat up to 200. The new seats will "bump up" occupancy to up to 225, Logsdon added.
The fundraiser so far has been contribution-driven, Pollard said. The theater is paying off an existing mortgage on equipment as fast as it can and does not want to refinance, he said.
Before every show, directors let the audience know about the project and patrons are welcome to try out the sample chair in the lobby.
The input so far has been very positive, Logston said.
Pollard said the community theater is entirely run by volunteers -- from the actors to the box office help -- and Logsdon is the only paid employee.
Those who are interested in donating can go online to highlandslittletheatre.org or drop off checks to the Little Theatre box office, which is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before a show.
For information, call 385-2175.