Windsor, a town with no community theater, may soon have a venue for plays, concerts, poetry readings and more.
A downtown church is on the verge of being converted into a performance space, under the auspices of the Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg.
"This is a piece of Windsor that we need. It gives us some nightlife. It attracts people to Windsor," said Karen Alves, part of the six-member Windsor founders' committee seeking to make it a reality.
Alves and others behind the future Raven Theater Windsor said it would be a cozy, 100-seat flexible space that could accommodate musicals and dramas, youth and poetry recitals, community forums and speakers, classes, even comedy nights and films.
"We have so many families here and to provide this type of entertainment that's family-oriented is really critical," said Laurie Shimizu, a committee member who owns a custom jewelry store downtown.
Tom Brand, executive director of The Raven in Healdsburg, said his organization is in final negotiations to lease the 53-year-old, cinderblock church on Windsor River Road.
"It's existing as a church now. The congregation is moving," he said of the small, nondenominational New Beginnings Ministry of Love Church that has been there six years.
Organizers of Raven Windsor estimate they will need $75,000 for startup costs to pay for everything from rent to lighting, painting, drapes and risers.
Already they've raised $5,000, including $3,000 from downtown merchants.
The rest is expected to come from donations and a campaign on the website Kickstarter, with contributors getting items such as totebags, or show tickets for smaller amounts. Those who kick in $1,000 or more a get a private theater showing with 100 of their friends, according to committee member Lynn Reiter.
"The plan is we open and start working in January," he said. "The first performance would be February, or March. It depends on how we do in fundraising."
Boosters just launched the website www.raventheater.org/windsor.
Town officials are excited at the prospect of the theater.
"It would be great for the downtown — a great community amenity with a well-known name people identify with," said Windsor Town Manager Linda Kelly.
Brand said the Raven Theater Performing Arts group was looking for a second location in addition to the 450-seat former movie house it occupies in downtown Healdsburg.
With 130 shows and events annually, along with rehearsals, the old cinema is heavily booked and people wanting to use The Raven often are turned away, according to Brand.
There are plays, musicals, popular and classical music concerts at the Healdsburg theater. It serves as the site for some Healdsburg Jazz Festival events, school performances, Dancing with the Stars and the Mr. Healdsburg Pageant.
Holiday performances, movies and politics are also part of the mix, including City Council forums and supervisorial debates.
Brand said The Raven has a wide audience with only one-third coming from Healdsburg.
They began shopping for another smaller location to accommodate a greater number of events.
"We were looking in Healdsburg, then struck with the concept, 'Why not go to Windsor, closer to the population core in the county?'" Brand said.
Alves credits North County Supervisor Mike McGuire with acting as a catalyst.
"Mike McGuire invited me to walk in the Citrus Parade (in Cloverdale). While we were walking, he asked me to do him a favor and call Tom Brand and encourage him to come to Windsor to look at a possible building for a second location," Alves said.
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