Black Box Theater receives grant for new equipment

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New College’s Black Box Theater, which is the only undergraduate theater of its kind in the area, received a sizable present to celebrate its first birthday: a $23,480 grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation to purchase new equipment such as lighting, seating and storage cabinets.

“It’s mostly just filling in the gaps of what we found out we didn’t have,” Dean of Students Wendy Bashant told the Catalyst in an interview. “Costumes, props, sceneries, a programmable light control panel — all of these are just little things that will … make it easier for students.”

The grant was secured through an application written by the New College Foundation. “This was the first grant from them [the Selby Foundation] in some years,” New College Foundation Director of Marketing Marty Katz said in an e-mail. “The grant making is competitive — most foundations only fund about half of the grant applications they receive.”

Bashant explained that the grant was solely for capital improvement to the Theater and could not be used for other related positions, such as for additional TA positions or for a theater manager. “It can’t be used for people — Selby likes to buy things, unfortunately,” she said, laughing. “That’s what we’d really like — somebody to help us staff it. But we’re still struggling with that. There’s a Rotary scholarship that I think we didn’t get but that we applied for that would have paid for personnel.”

According to Bashant, New College prepared a list of desired equipment in its grant proposal to the Selby Foundation. “Basically, our tech person from Asolo who was working with us went through and said, ‘These are the things you really need to get this thing off the ground,’ and that’s how we came up with the list of things,” she said.

The need for the grant money to help out the Theater came as a result of decisions made in order to allocate New College’s amount of Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) money. “They [the state] grant us a chunk of money,” Bashant explained. “The seawall needs fixing, the computer lab needs fixing … what we try to do is split it so the biggest needs — the things we most need — get spent, and the rest get picked up later. This was a fairly high need but at the same time, we could have made it perfect and it would mean we wouldn’t have had a seawall. It’s that kind of a juggling thing. It’s typical to sort of have a theater start up and then realize what you’re missing based on what the needs of the school are. Hopefully this is just the beginning — we also need more beyond that as well, I would say.”

Bashant said that she anticipated the renovations will be complete by December, citing a desire on the part of the Selby Foundation for New College to spend its grant allocation quickly rather than simply “sit on it.” “Usually it’s a six-month plan, and this one came in in July,” she said.

While the monies received from the Selby Foundation will help supplement the Black Box Theater, Katz said the Foundation is still looking for a willing person or group to support the Theater.

“Selby funded our proposal in full, so we don’t have other proposals out there [for the Theater], but we are looking for a donor to endow and name the theater for a gift of at least $250,000,” he explained.

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