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Public outpouring help keeps Secret Theatre afloat

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The founder of Long Island City’s Secret Theatre had feared he would have to shut its doors for good next month after a revenue shortfall, but community support, and a cooperative landlord, have put the 99-seat venue on more stable ground. Richard Mazda, 60, blamed the vicissitudes of the economy, fear about ongoing funding for the arts, and “general 2017 malaise” for the Secret Theatre’s financial troubles.

“We never make a profit, and at the end of the year we always come up short about $20,000 in the hole,” Mazda said. “We’re trying to stabilize the situation, and my landlord is working with us. He agreed to let me go month to month, and we’re getting small extensions as we go along.”

The Secret Theatre, at 44-02 23rd St., launched a GoFundMe campaign so it could continue to provide a platform for musicals, Shakespeare and contemporary shows, drama classes for the community’s children and for the Queens New Musical Festival, the Queensboro Dance Festival and the Sounds of the Arts Festival. And Mazda thanked the community for its response.

“We’re at 62 percent of our $20,000 goal,” he said. “I’m very humbled and pleased and indeed honored by the support and the amount of the donations. It’s great how people have stepped up to support us, and because it’s a GoFundMe page I can draw resources and pay the landlord as we go along. He wants it to work, but he doesn’t want to see the debt increase.”

Mazda says his theater will stay open at least until the end of June, ensuring that he can present the Broadway musical “Gypsy” in February and March and that all children’s classes will finish the semester. The theater currently receives no government funding or corporate support, so Mazda is depending on more public support if the Secret Theatre is to have more of a future.

“It seems like a finger-in-the-dike situation,” Mazda said. “We have a lot of good ideas for the summer, but I don’t want to make any promises until we’re a bit more stabilized.

“So the GoFundMe campaign continues, and we’re throwing a major fund-raiser at the Plaxall Gallery on March 17. It’s going to be an awesome party with food and drink and several bands, artwork and a flamenco dancer, so people can support us and have a wonderful time as well.”

Once the current financial crisis passes, Mazda intends to make changes to the organizational structure, including filing for nonprofit status to help raise funds and grants.

“I want to go 10 more years or longer, but the stress is beginning to get to me,” Mazda said. “But people who know me know that I’ll be in the ring fighting. They know that I’m up to the challenge.”

To donate, visit gofundme.com/SaveTheSecret, and tax-deductible contributions can be made via Fractured Atlas at fracturedatlas.org/site/FiscalSponsorhip/profile?id=9008.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by email at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Posted 12:00 am, February 2, 2018
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