Kaufman follies

MARQUETTE – This might just be the start of a tradition.

The Kaufman Follies, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, is a variety show to raise money for critical repairs in the venerable facility. If it goes over well, it could become a yearly evening of fun for a good cause.

“Kaufman Auditorium, realizing the ever-growing list of capital improvement projects needed for the region’s beloved 87-year old historic performing arts venue, is setting out to start an annual fundraiser to help raise money to start replacing many of the critical items in need of repair,” Sara Cambensy, Director of Kaufman Auditorium, Community and Adult Education for the Marquette Area Public Schools, said in an email.

“What could be a better annual fundraiser for an auditorium than a follies variety show,” she said. “The largest need in our auditorium now is our sound system, last updated in 1993. You can imagine the difference in technology since then.”

Cambensy said other items on the list include chilled water fountains in the front of the house, new carpeting, painting and plaster repair around the proscenium and a complete overhaul of the Kaufman Auditorium 1925 Steinway Grand Concert piano, including proper humidity controls where it is stored underneath the stage.

“We are also looking to revamp our current Graveraet cafeteria space so that it can accommodate evening and weekend Kaufman events in the way of catered food, reception space and artist meet-and-greets,” Cambensy said. “By using our cafeteria space more efficiently, it is allowing for greater economic viability for not only Kaufman Auditorium, our groups renting who can charge a higher ticket price and add more events on site for their artists, but it also invites the regional restaurant community in to be a part of our events and helps them grow their business while supporting the arts.”

A diverse collection of community members and groups are going to be part of the Kaufman Follies.

“All of the Kaufman co-sponsored events and people working with those – ‘The Nutcracker,’ Blueberry Dance Festival, the cast and crew of ‘Scrooge,’ our MAPS administrative team and superintendent, and local actors and actresses (will be) looking to put their talent to good use,” Cambensy said. “Also, a lot of community-oriented people who are willing to use their talent – or put themselves in front of others – to help raise money are involved in this. We have members of the Northern Michigan University football team in one of our acts this year, as well as several NMU students in dance and theater who have volunteered to take part in it.

“The momentum is growing from all sorts of directions and as we pull together the first one, we are getting a lot of calls from businesses and other local celebrities saying, ‘put me on the list for next year’,” she said. “Nikke Nason (Lake Superior Youth Theatre) and Marty Martello (Kaufman Players) have been instrumental in helping plan this and pull it together. This year the follies are being directed by Jeff Spencer.”

Beyond upgrading equipment, the Kaufman Follies will help in other ways.

“Outside of the capital needs, we have more interest than ever before for organizations, groups and individuals looking to perform in Kaufman Auditorium,” Cambensy said. “We have started great partnership opportunities with the Second Skin Shop for expanding dance workshops, keeping the ‘Nutcracker’ community dance performance going and have even added back the annual community performance of ‘Scrooge,’ which saw the creation of the Kaufman Players – a new community theatre group housed at Kaufman Auditorium. Part of this money will also go toward putting some funding behind these programs, which in return generate more revenue for the auditorium and more money for the capital improvement fees.

“Bottom line: the way we are starting to view the auditorium is in a sustainable way,” she said. “We are creating a business model to help grow and sustain all MAPS, Kaufman co-sponsored events and in-house and community rental programs along the way, while also generating more funding for capital improvement projects.

“With the Kaufman Follies, we hope to grow this event to make it our major fundraiser each year.”

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.