Reading the article about the economic impact COVID-19 was having on the Andria Theatre and how the future of the 50-year-old organization was in question struck a nerve with Bruce Pohlig.

Pohlig is a retired community member who loves attending plays and has even been in a few with his family, including his daughter Christine Reilly, who does a lot of the choreography for the Andria Theatre.

Pohlig said he kept bringing the Andria Theatre up in conversation with his wife, Kathleen, who owns Cherry Street Books in Alexandria, and that he finally said he needed to make some phone calls about it.

His first calls were to Ann Hermes and Dave Christman, executive director and artistic director of the Andria Theatre, respectively.

“They gave me a one-week crash course on what’s behind the numbers of running the theater,” said Pohlig. “It wasn’t good. And it wouldn’t be good to lose this theater.”

Pohlig then called up his friend, Sally Smith, and said he was putting together a plan for the theater and that he would be presenting the plan to the theater’s board of directors.

“Sally said the Andria Theatre is a community treasure and that we can’t lose it,” said Pohlig. “Our main concern is that we put together a plan that would allow the theater to survive.”

And that plan was to raise enough money to help the Andria get through 18 months of fixed expenses during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Hermes, a silent fundraising phase was started with a goal to raise between 75% -80% of the total campaign, which is $450,000.

“That goal was met and now the public phase has begun,” said Hermes.

Ann Hermes (right), Andria Theatre's executive director, along with Dave Christman, the theater's artistic director, stand outside the downtown Alexandria theater showing their announcement on the marquee. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
Ann Hermes (right), Andria Theatre's executive director, along with Dave Christman, the theater's artistic director, stand outside the downtown Alexandria theater showing their announcement on the marquee. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

According to Pohlig, four community families, who wish not to be named, came together and donated $235,000. He said the families gave the fundraiser a good start by reaching more than halfway to the goal.

Since Pohlig’s silent fundraising efforts, about $108,000 more has been raised by various people within the community through a variety of ways.

Hermes said the donations now stand at about $343,650, which means about $106,000 more needs to be fundraised. She said the $450,000 the theater is seeking will see it through about 18 months of fixed expenses and that if the pandemic has a shorter life, the remaining money will go toward projects that were forced to a halt because of the mandated shutdown of public facilities.

“This is an exciting and gratifying time in the history of the Alexandria Area Arts Association,” said Hermes. “Exciting because the light is at the end of the tunnel for ensuring the duration of community theater experiences for all ages for years to come. It’s gratifying and humbling to see the outpouring of support from the community to save this treasured resource.”

Pohlig said in talking with Hermes and Christman, a question arose about whether the theater should be producing shows. Pohlig suggested they keep shows running, but to make sure it is regulated.

“It’s important to keep it going,” said Pohlig. “We want to save it, not lose and keep it going. The theater is such an important part of this community. And I just love going to plays.”

Upcoming season

Hermes said she and Christman are working on an abbreviated season of shows with smaller casts. She said there will be more performances scheduled to help make up for the reduced attendance numbers with limited capacity regulations.

“We are working on safety protocols for reopening the theater to ensure everyone’s safe participation and attendance,” said Hermes.

She said to stay tuned as the theater will be making an announcement soon about which productions will be included in the upcoming season.

A message on the Andria Theatre's marquee reads, "We believe." There is a fundraising campaign for the theater currently under way in hopes of raising money to keep the theater running for at least 18 months. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
A message on the Andria Theatre's marquee reads, "We believe." There is a fundraising campaign for the theater currently under way in hopes of raising money to keep the theater running for at least 18 months. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

To donate

Donations can be made online anytime on the theater’s website, andriatheatre.org. Checks, made out to Save the Andria, can be mailed to the theater at 618 Broadway St., Alexandria, MN 563008. Or people can call the box office at 320-762-8300. Because of limited hours, callers are asked to leave their name and a phone number and someone from the theater will call them back.