Many of you are aware by now, that I'll be stepping down in January as the theater's producing director. Not only will I leave the theater in the very capable hands of Dana Schultes and Jim Covault, who take on the roles of Co-Producers, but we add another valuable piece, Mark Shum, who will assume the role of Business Manager.
When I came back to the theater I founded in 2003, Stage West was about to be nothing more than a fine and tragic note in local theater history. Ten years later, we find ourselves in the healthiest financial position we've ever been in. In the past five years, since our move back to Vickery, out budget has more than doubled and our artistic quality and output continues to grow. All this is not as much due to me, but to Dana's amazing dedication to making Stage West the most welcoming theater in the Metroplex, and her unparalleled fundraising skills; to Jim's continuing pursuit of elevating our artistic standards, our choice of material and the theater's graphic image and to the sheer commitment and faith of our core staff.
It's so fitting that the impending changes take place following the best year we've ever seen.
We attracted over 16,000 patrons and we reached another 8,476 people through our educational outreach programs and other events like storyteller nights and the New Year's Eve celebration. We also debuted a signature Valentine's Day benefit. Appropriate to our mission: "Acting with the Stars," featured six Metroplex personalities matched with six professional actors, each performing scenes with romantic themes. The new event was a grand success, and Stage West's reserve fund benefitted handsomely.
While season ticket sales stayed level with those of the previous year, individual ticket sales were up 70 percent. Foundation giving increased by 11.6 percent; individual contributions increased by 9.6 percent. We set a record with $356,382 in gift income, an increase of 18 percent. Particularly important was the $20,388 we raised for our educational programs, a 69 percent increase over last year. Also noteworthy was the 45 percent increase in the number of donors from 269 to 389.
We gambled a bit when we added 9,000 square feet of space immediately adjacent to our theater. This enabled us to perform seven shows with only a 10-day turnaround between shows. In the new space we built a scene shop, a set of offices, and a space for rehearsals. Among these seven shows, was a world premiere of The Sports Page, a highly successful production of Red Hot Patriot, The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins (which broke all our box office records) a wonderfully rewarding production of New Jerusalem, a brilliant rendering of The Real Thing and a delightful version of Around the World in 80 Days. And as we round out 2012 we've mounted a superb production of our first full book musical in six years, She Loves Me.
What a way to set the foundation for the future! And we have many dreams ahead. A second space is on the horizon and hopefully, further down the road, an expansion that would increase the Mainstage seating capacity by 40 percent.
Of course I still say we, because although I'll not be paying the bills anymore, I'll be active on the Stage West board and will be around the theater in an advisory and public relations capacity.
Thanks to all of you—as actor, technician, audience or booster—for helping return a vital part of DFW's theater scene to a position of strength and creativity!
◊ Jerry Russell is founder and, for a few more days, Producing Director of Stage West in Fort Worth.
◊ This is the third of our year-end essays from members of the arts community on TheaterJones. The first was from Raphael Parry of Shakespeare Dallas, the second from actress Amber Nicole Guest. From now through the end of the year, look for essays from Michael Serrecchia, Jeremy Dumont, Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, Katie Puder and others. If you'd like to contribute an essay, email Mark Lowry at firstname.lastname@example.org.