State Theatre: How volunteers keep the place alive

By: Megan Peterson Email
By: Megan Peterson Email

It has six paid employees, but hosts more than 100 concerts, plays and musicals every year.

So how has the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, home of the State Theatre, stayed successful for decades? The answer is volunteers!

They cleaned the lobby and arranged advertisements just right. A group of helpful ladies spent their morning at the State Theatre helping with whatever they could, all on a volunteer basis.

"We love volunteers. We have hundreds of them that help us staff all of our performances from ushers to working the concession stand and greeters out front," ECRAC Executive Director Ben Richgruber said.

They are just a few of about 500 people who have signed up to volunteer at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center.

"I just believe in the arts so much that I think it's the heart and soul of a community. And we do so many things besides just volunteer for the shows. We help in the office, we are down at the farmers market, and we do various outreach programs," Volunteer Joanne Miller explained.

And without them, volunteer coordinator Rose Dolan-Neill says the place wouldn't be running.

"To staff 50 people per event, that's just outrageous to even think of the cost. Just with minimum wage. We could never, we wouldn't be able to function without our volunteers. They're necessary," Dolan-Neill said.

Volunteers do everything from stuffing envelopes in the office, to handing out programs and getting people seated for a big show.

"For an event to work really smoothly here at the arts center we need about 50 volunteers for each event," she added.

"When we have four and five shows on a weekend, it takes quite a bit of organization to make sure all the positions are filled," Miller said.

The volunteers say they do it because they support the arts and the community they live in.

"It's just very fulfilling. I just believe so definitely in the arts. I love the arts and I do think it's just the heart and soul of the community and to be a part of that is just great," Miller said.

With 85 years down, and many more ahead, Dolan-Neill says more volunteers will be needed.

"We always have an open door policy for volunteers. They can contact me here at the arts center or go to to sign up," Dolan-Neill said.

Whether they're on stage, behind the scenes, or getting show-goers seated, the State Theatre is one thing many community members can't imagine not having.

"I can't even put it into words. It adds so much. It really adds a sense of community. People that are involved here are really a family and it allows them a chance to get involved in their community in ways they might not get in other opportunities," Richgruber said.

The “Bootlegger's Ball” is the 85th birthday celebration. That's coming up Friday night, January 14th, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30.

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  • by Phil Location: cf on Jan 11, 2011 at 05:48 PM
    MSP actually has for profit theaters that do quite well, and worth the money to attend. Not sure the EC one will/can survive.
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