Celebration, Surprises in Store at Bellarine Theatre Co.’s Winter Gala at LBIF

Bellarine Theatre Co. marks the close of its fifth season in grand style with a Winter Gala fundraiser at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies on Saturday, Dec. 19. Tickets are on sale now at $25 apiece for a swanky soirée that starts at 7 p.m. and includes food from the Old Causeway Steak and Oyster House and other refreshments (feel free to bring beverages of choice); gift auctions, dancing and revelry; thanks and honors bestowed upon longtime supporters and special guests; memorable performances by company members from past shows; and a sneak preview of the 2016 season.

“Bellarine is devoted to leaving a positive impact on our community, audience and company members by providing an invigorating theatrical experience,” according to Artistic Director Jessica Huch. “We believe in advancing our craft by providing opportunities for all through education, collaboration and exploration.”

About 100 guests are expected to attend this first-of-its-kind event, she said, which will surpass previous year-end events in scope, as a celebration of those who have made the organization successful. Proceeds from the gala will fund set and costume construction, lighting and sound rentals and the purchase of performance rights, Huch explained. “Everything will go directly towards production costs for the upcoming year and beyond.”

Having been involved with many different theater groups through the years, on the school and professional level, Huch said she realized her favorite experiences as a performer were the shows that were the best managed “and that you can have an incredible amount of fun by dedicating yourself to performing at the peak of your ability.” So she “aimed to run a community theater group in a safe setting with a professional mindset,” she said, “and the results have been spectacular.”

Huch earned her degrees in theater and theater arts administration from Rowan University, where the Bellarine concept was “a dorm room daydream – and I chose to make that dream a reality.” In its first year, Bellarine put up one show. Five years on, the company boasts full seasons with special improv performances and student director showcases throughout the year. Huch said she is humbled and thankful to have “some of the best minds of theater in South Jersey” helping her to set and achieve new goals.

Bellarine currently operates throughout Southern Ocean County as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Huch runs the company and makes the big-picture decisions while her husband, Managing Director Chris Huch, handles day-to-day tasks. Members of the board of directors help guide decision-making, assist in fundraising efforts and serve on production teams for many of the shows. “We try to mix up our directing teams for our shows to ensure we get new visions and concepts,” Huch said.

The size of the productions varies, she said, but the largest cast and crew to date was for “Legally Blonde,” which had 85-plus performers, musicians, artists and technicians.

In choosing which shows to produce, the objective is to expose area audiences to something new or to re-imagine older shows in fresh ways, Huch explained. Whether due to cost, ease or familiarity, some theater companies stick to the same old “safe” shows, but Bellarine strives to excite and challenge theatergoers with different selections.

Bellarine’s shows have highlighted many of the area’s top up-and-comers, Huch said; being able to provide a launch point for such talent fills her with pride. “We can’t wait to see where they will go next,” she said. But equally satisfying, and what continually drives the company’s progress, she added, is having seasoned actors and directors recognize and commend Bellarine’s uniqueness and express their desire to be part of it.

In light of the recent losses of Surflight Theatre and the Ocean Professional Theater Co., Huch said she hopes residents and visitors recognize the importance of supporting the arts. The loss of any theater group is a loss to the whole arts community, she said. Bellarine stands for artistic collaboration wherever possible, to strengthen the culture of performing arts in the region.

To purchase tickets for the gala, visit squareup.com/market/bellarine-theatre-company, or follow the link to Squareup through the “Bellarine’s Winter Gala” Facebook event page. For additional information, email Jessica@bellarinetheatre.com.

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