With explosive growth over the last six years and an eye on sustaining current quality and possibly expanding, the Lake Dillon Theatre Company has created a new position and hired a director of development.
Mari Geasair - a longtime Denver resident who most recently worked in Seattle - started earlier this month and is charged with overseeing all the individual, corporate and foundation fundraising efforts for the organization. Approximately 65 percent of the theater's annual operating budget is generated from contributed income sources each season.
Over the last six years, the organization's annual operating budget has grown to its current $800,000. It has switched from a community to professional theater - which means actors and other workers are paid a living wage - and now applies for professional rights to works, rather than amateur (only 10 theaters in the state do so).
"This position is meant to help us sustain the quality we have now," said executive director Josh Blanchard. "Our expenses just have really grown."
Geasair, who now lives in Summit County, has been professionally dedicated to marketing and development for live theater since 2003. Before that, she spent 15 years as a small business marketing coach and consultant.
From 2006-2012, Geasair served as the vice president of strategy and education for an outsourced marketing and development firm for live theaters. The company served clients such as ACT in Seattle, Wash., and Aurora Fox Theatre in Aurora. Geasair is also a nationally recognized speaker on arts marketing and arts development.
"Mari's expertise, passion and talent will help move the LDTC toward our vision of sustainable professional theater and cultural programming in Summit County," Blanchard said.
In her new position, Geasair said she hopes to raise large sums of money for the organization - particularly in light of its plans to possible move into a new, larger space in coming years. Theaters enhance communities, she said, and the arts "are just plain good for the economy."
"That being said, I also want people who never attend the Lake Dillon Theatre, or any other theater for that matter, to know how vitally important the Lake Dillon Theatre is to our community," she said. "I truly believe that in a 'me first,' short-attention-span world, live theater can help audiences build empathy and concentration and have access to one-of-a-kind experiences that can enrich your soul, or just take you away from a very bad day."
Geasair said the intimacy of the space, the friendliness of the people and high-caliber art at the Lake Dillon Theatre made it an irresistible draw for her.
"I have consulted with or worked for hundreds of leaders from arts organizations in a wide range of communities, and they don't always 'get it,'" Geasair said. "(Artistic director Chris Alleman) and Josh are that rare combination of genuine artists who also understand business and are proactively committed to being fully participating members of the community. They are the kind of people I want to work with, and the kind of people that this community can be proud of."