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Foothill seeks more support

Civic and city leaders in Grass Valley said they would welcome Foothill Theatre to their downtown. But the company said it is getting a more mixed response from leaders in its hometown of Nevada City ” along with a “default of lease” letter from the Nevada Theatre.

The outpouring of individual donations, now totaling $33,000, and flexibility with the actors for the planned production of “On Golden Pond” in September has allowed the company to extend its deadline to remain open or close Aug. 22 from Friday, said board president Lowell Robertson. The 32-year-old theater company needs to raise $90,000 by the end of next week and another $157,000 by year-end ” or face closure.

“It just kind of flabbergasts me that we don’t have business owners and government entities in Nevada City saying, ‘Wait a minute, you’re important to us,'” said Karen Marinovich, executive director of Foothill Theatre. “We just haven’t gotten that. It breaks my heart.”



Foothill Theatre spoke before the Nevada City Council Wednesday to “restate its case,” as Marinovich put it.

“We would appreciate your support,” Marinovich said at the council meeting.




The theater company plans to meet today with the city’s finance committee.

Nevada Theatre Commission members will meet Monday to discuss the issue involving its biggest tenant, said Commission President Jim Dodds.

Dodds said the “default of lease” letter was sent because the company has not paid the full amount of rent due for August. The letters are required as a legal precaution in case the theater files for bankruptcy, he said.

Dodds said he wants the theater to succeed, adding that he has raised money in the past for the company with a long-distance bicycle ride. The nonprofit’s mission is “to preserve the historic Nevada Theatre to provide the community with a valuable cultural asset.”

Marinovich doesn’t expect money from the government but hopes city leaders will recognize the company’s cultural and economic value. Foothill Theatre is the county’s only resident professional theater, and its financial impact is estimated at $1.6 million annually, trickling down to restaurants, shops, inns and local tax coffers, according to Robertson.

Marinovich said she was disappointed after meeting with Nevada City Mayor Barbara Coffman and the city’s Downtown Association board. Meetings with the Nevada City chamber’s executive manager Cathy Whittlesey and Vice Mayor Reinette Senum were more positive, she said. She called the meeting with Senum “a ray of hope.”

Both said they have received consistent support and encouragement from civic and city leaders in Grass Valley.

Downtown Association Executive Director Howard Levine has made a personal donation to the “Save the Foothill Theatre” campaign, she said.

Grass Valley Mayor Mark Johnson said city leaders might soon consider a resolution and write a letter of support to Foothill. County and city officials will meet Aug. 22 at the Center for the Arts to discuss how government can better support the arts.

“Foothill Theatre is a great asset,” Johnson said.

Foothill and Center for the Arts are continuing discussions about working together more closely. This could include holding more productions at Center for the Arts, sharing box offices, even an outright move.

“We’re having conversations daily with Foothill about those sort of things,” said Center for the Arts board president Richard Baker.

“The reality is, in the broadest sense, there could be an opportunity for Foothill to do most of what they do out of our facilities,” said Baker. “There is room if it came to that.”

An outright merger could not occur, however, because of different missions.

Grass Valley is providing a $250,000 grant to Center for the Arts to upgrade its facilities. This could include improved lighting, sound fixtures and increased seating. This month, the Center expects to seek bids for a facilities study, the first step in the process.

“Our goal is to provide infrastructure for all the arts,” Baker said.

To contact Jeff Pelline, e-mail jpelline@theunion.com or call 477-4235.


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