A Call for help

Mount Holly
Theater Night

A fundraiser for the Mill Race Theatrical Company

The Mill Race Theatrical Company is a non-profit theater and maker-space located at 30 Church Street in the heart of Mt. Holly's art district.  We are a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to revitalizing downtown Mount Holly.

On Friday, August 4th, we are producing a “Theater Night” to raise funds for our upcoming shows and classes.  Throughout the year, we offer high quality theater & music performances, free educational courses in technology, art, and trade skills, and free access to our production studio for our volunteers.  As we prepare for the upcoming season, we are reaching out to the community to help us reach our fundraising goals.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We will be launching a Theater Night campaign that will encourage our supporters to shop and dine at participating locations in Mount Holly on Friday, August 4th.  We are asking for participating shops and restaurants to commit to donating 10% of their sales that day in support of The Mill Race Theatrical Company.  In return for your commitment, we will promote your business in the marketing campaign and we will include your business on our website and in our upcoming event brochures.  Donations can be made by check, cash, or credit card and will be collected the week after the event.  If you wish, we can also provide your patrons with a short musical cabaret on Theater Night highlighting the acapella talents of our most talented singers.  All donations made to The Mill Race Theatrical Company are 100% tax deductible.

OUR COMMITMENT TO MOUNT HOLLY

Based on a 2016 study, theater events generate an additional $24.60 in revenue per ticketholder for local businesses.  We always encourage our patrons to come early to Mount Holly so they can shop and dine before the show.  At the end of each show, we remind the audience to stop in town for a night cap or dessert before they leave.  Beyond that, we provide free access to trade skills, technology classes, and mentorships for residents.  This is a part of the rising tide we hope will lift our community and we are working hard to keep our town moving in the right direction.  All we need is your help to make that happen.  We are a registered 501c3 non-profit (EIN: 46-3445261) vetted by The United Way, The Nation of Makers, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

HOW TO REACH US

Contact: Tom Greenfield, Artistic Director
Address: 30 Church St, Mount Holly, NJ 08060
Phone: (609) 288-2713
Email: [email protected]

This might be a blow we can’t recover from

a special peek behind the curtain...

Last Thursday, May 11th, our Lead Producer, Tome Wilson, had the opportunity to be interviewed by The Burlington County Times to discuss the ongoing legal battle between the Mount Holly Land Use Board and the renovation company working on our warehouse location.  While pieces of the interview were published in the May 17th edition of the BCT (available here), we would like to share the full, unedited interview that goes into more depth on what's happening with The Mill Race Theatrical Company in Mount Holly.


How long has the company occupied the building?

The Mill Race Theatrical Company has been renovating a section of the industrial complex at 30 Church Street since 2014.  During the renovation, we volunteered our time to beautify the location and its surrounding.  For example, we started by cleaning the broken glass, trash, and weeds from the parking lot.  We then painted the interior, improved the lighting to cut down on crime, and volunteered our design skills to help at Land Use Board presentations.  We also volunteered our time cleaning and organizing the other storage areas within the complex.  Our goal was to help transform a dilapidated industrial wasteland into a thriving extension of Mill Race Village.

When were productions shut down?

The Mill Race Theatrical Company voluntarily ceased all activity at the 30 Church Street location before an official notice was needed.  We completely support the redevelopment of the property and we didn’t want our actions to jeopardize any progress being made between the 30 Church Street Development Group and the Mount Holly Land Use Board.

Was anything scheduled to be performed that won't be because of this? Or any classes?

Yes.  As our Lead Producer and as a member of our Executive Board, I can report that the board recently approved a 1/3/5 year plan for the organization.  This document contains our roadmap for what we plan to accomplish up to the year 2022.

The goal of our The Mill Race Theatrical Company is to be the rising tide that lifts the community.  We build our talent pool by offering free performing arts classes.  Those classes translate into real world careers.   This gives Mount Holly residents free access to education in fields such as technology, public speaking, lighting/sound production, carpentry, electronics, accounting, marketing, and graphic design.   

When most people think “theater,” they think of bad high school plays.  What they don’t see is the blue collar talent that goes into a production.  For every actor on stage, there are at least five - ten people behind the scenes who created the production.  

We teach these skills, give our volunteers a safe place to practice under the guidance of a mentor, help our students network with other professionals, and prepare them for jobs in the real world.  This is why we have the blessing of national organizations like The United Way, The Nation of Makers, and The National Endowment for the Arts, not to mention local groups like the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State.

Outside the theater, our ensemble volunteers a lot of time and resources towards the seasonal productions we all love in Mount Holly.  

For example, did you know that “Moana the Witch,” the 18’ tall mascot of The Mount Holly Witches Ball, was created by The Mill Race Theatrical Company?  Every year, we build Moana and revise her display so she can stand as a landmark for the Mill Race Village.  And in 2016, we started a new show called “The Holiday Thingy” as a kick-off to the Mount Holly House Tour.  This multi-act cabaret full of holiday songs and stories invites people of all faiths to celebrate the winter season in Mount Holly.  We also created the Santa float that arrives in Mill Race Village every year for the tree lighting parade.  This ensures that Santa has the time to meet all our neighborhood children during his busy season.  And to dress up the town a little more during the season, we rebuilt all of the giant holiday wreaths that adorn the lamp posts.

The most troubling outlook places our entire non-profit at risk.

We rely on ticket sales, grants, and donations to stay alive.  Without a home to produce our shows, that eliminates our ticket sales.  Without a home to run our classes, that slashes the number of people willing to donate.  And without the capability to run classes or productions, we are ineligible to receive grants.  

Even if we can receive grants, most are 1:1, meaning we must match every grant dollar.  So, if we apply for a grant that will award us $1,000, we must also supply $1,000 of our own money to be eligible for the grant.  And, without ticket sales, finding that matching $1,000 becomes difficult, if not impossible.

Even if we do come back online, most grant organizations work 10—18 months in advance.  This means our non-profit needs to submit budgets and production details almost a year ahead of time.  And if we fail to provide the services promised in the grant application, then that means the grant—and any future grants—will be denied.  In the non-profit world, this is like having a bankruptcy mark on your credit report. 

There’s also the problem of timing.  Most grants have very small windows of opportunity.  If we hypothetically come back online in July, but all the grants were due in June, that means we have to wait until next year plus 10—18 months before we can receive funding for our next class or production.

What do you think the town is losing by having this go on?

When I met our group’s founder, Tom Greenfield, I was impressed by his devotion to Mount Holly.

I remember driving over an hour to visit Tom’s Haunted Mansion-esque production of “Miss Lilly’s Seance Parlor” when it was located in Mill Race Village.  Standing in line, I met others who had driven 2—3 hours, and some came in from across the country just to experience what Tom and his crew had built.  A year later, Tom was planting the roots of The Mill Race Theatrical Company and working on the 501c3 non-profit application.  Shortly after, I knew that a 70 mile commute was a small sacrifice, because I wanted to be a part of this mission.  Now, I pack up my car and commute into Mount Holly, because I know I'm making a difference.  My wife and I were also looking for homes in the area so I would be closer to my work.

If the goal of a township is to grow through education, service, and business, then I think our non-profit makes that possible.  In the few short years since joining, I’ve seen a dirty warehouse turned into a dream factory.  Inside, real people are inspired to learn and to give back to their community.  

We’ve paid into the community and based on the support I’m seeing online and in the town, it's a fact that Mount Holly loves having us here.  This love has placed us in reach of new town-wide grants provided by Etsy, The National Endowment for the Arts, and The Nation of Makers.  We are aggressively pursuing these opportunities, because they provide hundreds of thousands of dollars towards revitalizing areas like 30 Church Street as long as we meet three criteria:

  1. We are an established non-profit in good standing.
  2. We use the arts as a means of education to uplift our town.
  3. We have the support of our local government.

We currently meet these criteria, but without a headquarters in town to continue our work, we’re in trouble of losing these opportunities.  And, with budgets for the arts being cut, now is the most vital time to make these strides before the opportunities go away.

We are doing our best to recover, but this might be a blow we can’t recover from.

In the meantime, let’s give our support to both 30 Church Street Development Group and The Land Use Board.  They’re pouring through a lot of details and they both want what’s best for the town.


If you are interested in supporting our theater, we are going to be hosting a fundraiser and collecting donations to keep the theater alive.  

Our last non-profit grant for 2017 requires us to produce our Fall show, Theater of Fear, to remain in good standing.  However, our investment of $10,000 in Lady Dunsworth's Dilemma saw zero return.  We were forced to cancel the show before tickets could be sold.  This means, we invested the money to produce a play, but had no opportunity to recoup the costs of building the sets and creating the costumes.  Even if we are allowed to open our doors again by Autumn, this blow left us with no money to build Theater of Fear.

All we can say is, spread the word, share this news with your friends, and keep your spirits high.

To all our fans and students, we love you.  We can't thank you enough for your support over these past few weeks.  With your help, we'll be back with a bang.

Tome Wilson
Lead Producer, Mill Race Theatrical Company

Delayed, but moving forward

Mill Race Village redevelopment plan delayed, but moving forward

By Brian Woods, Staff Writer for the Burlington County Times


MOUNT HOLLY — Plans to revitalize an old water turbine manufacturing site among Mill Race Village's downtown shops hit a snag as the developer's bid for final site-plan approval was tabled last month.

The proposed redevelopment calls for transforming the 3.5-acre industrial complex at 30 Church St., which includes a 65,000-square-foot building, into a mix of apartments, shops, a distillery and even a theater company. Mill Race Inc., owned by the Winzinger family, which also owns several shops in Mill Race Village, bought the site three years ago and is working on the plan with Salt & Light Co., a nonprofit developer of affordable homes. 

"We are trying to do a project to expand Mill Race Village and revitalize a town," said Kent Pipes, president of Salt & Light. "We thought we were prepared with an application that was complete, but the Planning Board said there were some things that were needed and deemed it incomplete."

The village, which includes White, Church and Monroe streets, features boutique shops, art studios and the Robin's Nest restaurant. The 30 Church St. site is sandwiched between a couple of homes and across the street from an abandoned hardware store. It was the former T.H. Risdon Co., a manufacturer of water turbines in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

To go forward with the plans, three variances must be approved by the board, including for building height (it is three stories when 2.5 are permitted); for lot coverage (60 percent is allowed and 63.8 percent is proposed); and for parking spaces (about 305 spots are required but only 175 are proposed).

In March 2016, the developers were granted preliminary site-plan approval with some conditions, according to Township Manager Josh Brown. Not all of the conditions were met at last month's meeting.

The conditions included drainage calculations for stormwater runoff, signage, vegetation buffering, floor plans, and a plan to address vehicle delivery turning radius, according to Pipes.

The two companies are working to meet all the conditions and return to the Planning Board in June or July, he said.

The overall plan is to renovate the building and fill it with multi-use businesses that are allowed to operate in Mill Race Village.

It also calls for new shops as well as the expansion of current stores, and would allow the Robin's Nest to open a catering facility, expand the production of Village Idiot Brewing Co. on nearby High Street, and reopen the Mill Race Theatrical Company.

Pipes also said the developers envision a micro-distillery opening there.

In addition, the plan calls for six one-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors of the old warehouse.

"I believe the township is supportive of the current concept," Brown said.

One of the proposed occupants, the Mill Race Theatrical Company, has been using the building since last fall. In 2014, when Mill Race Inc. purchased the site, the theater company started cleaning up and renovating the inside and outside.

In October, it used a section of the building to put on its first play, "The Poe Project." Since then, the company has staged a couple of small productions, volunteered to help design mascots and decorations for town events, and offered classes.

"We build our talent pool by offering free performing arts classes. Those classes translate into real-world careers. This gives Mount Holly residents free access to education in fields such as technology, public speaking, lighting/sound production, carpentry, electronics, accounting, marketing and graphic design," said Tome Wilson, the lead producer of the company.

The company had to halt productions and cease using the building after the April Planning Board meeting because it was operating without a certificate of occupancy, according to Brown.

Wilson hopes the company can restart its activities, but will wait until Mill Race Inc. settles its site approval with the Planning Board. He said the company fully supports the development group and municipality as they work toward approving the redevelopment plan.

The township also seems to be in favor of the theatrical company making a speedy comeback.

"As it pertains to the theatrical company, the township views the talents of this creative group as a benefit. Providing such entertainment is a welcomed addition for which the township is fortunate that such passionate individuals chose Mount Holly," Brown said.

Although Mill Race Inc.'s plans still need final approval, the support is there. Brown said the municipality hopes the complex's future will help advance the arts and shopping atmosphere that is growing in the village.


This article originally appeared on the Burlington County Times website.

Classes and Shows Suspended at 30 Church Street

Due to an ongoing legal battle between the Mount Holly Land Use Board and the renovation company that owns our building, we have been asked to suspend all classes, productions, and performances at our 30 Church Street location.

Never fear, our mission will continue. We believe in uplifting our community by offering free technical and performing arts training, and this will not stop us. We have the support of the township, the United Way, The Nation of Makers, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Once we find a permanent home, you will be the first to know. 

We hope to release Lady Dunsworth's Dilemma again later in the season once we have the blessing of the Land Use Board. Until then, we will continue working on our Fall shows and our classes at a temporary location.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at [email protected]

For the future,

-Tome Wilson
Lead Producer