BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji Community Theater continues to seek funds for the renovation of its new building in the midst of a tough year for the performing arts industry and the local community.

The community theater has had no sales from the plays they would usually have held this year, and therefore have had no income since their production of "Murder Ahoy" in February.

"This year has been a challenging year for all of us," BCT said in a release. "We were in the last week of rehearsal for our children's musical, 'Treasure Island,' and were set to open March 20. With a cast of 30 (most of them children), there was excitement in the air. Then came COVID and the lockdown. After all the work and expense of the musical, we had to cancel all performances. The children were very disappointed. As the lockdown continued, we had to cancel our May production of 'Trip to Bountiful,' our summer theater camp (set for the first two weeks in June), and the late summer short play for children."

BCT was started in December 1981 by a group of friends who recorded "A Christmas Carol" to be broadcast over the radio. Since then, plays have been performed in various locations around Bemidji, growing from one show a year to their pre-coronavirus lineup of five shows each year, the release said.

The organization purchased its first-ever home in September 2018, the former home of Book World, in downtown Bemidji. They have since been renovating the retail space, creating storage areas, dressing rooms, a make-up space, sewing area, scenery shop and performance space.

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"Our former rental stage is no longer viable, so it is imperative that our home has a performance space by the time we are allowed to open," the release said. "There are a multitude of city regulations that must be met to be able to have an audience: a handicap accessible restroom, a handicap accessible dressing room, sprinkler system, multiple escape routes from all floors, etc."



Unfortunately, the organization cannot hold any fundraising gatherings due to COVID-19 regulations, in order to offset the renovation costs. Earlier in the summer, they held an online silent auction, which earned $2,468. However, renovations are a great deal more than that amount, the release said.

A GoFundMe was created in August to help raise some additional funds, but their goal of $25,000 is still far from being met. The GoFundMe can be found at https://gf.me/u/yp3zna.

"Any help you could give our non-profit group would be greatly appreciated," the release said. "Hope you see you 'on the boards' soon!"