South Coast Repertory's campaign to raise $40 million is 18 months ahead of schedule, so leaders of the Costa Mesa theater announced Friday that they are upping the ante to $50 million.
Nearly $38 million has been raised since mid-1998, when South Coast began a five-year drive to build a 336-seat theater, renovate the two existing auditoriums and boost its endowment so it could launch an annual series of plays aimed at family audiences.
David Emmes, the theater's producing artistic director, said Friday that with momentum strong and interest among prospective donors still high, South Coast will try to raise an additional $10 million by mid-2003. The extra money would enrich the theater's endowment, help commission new plays, enhance the size and quality of productions, and extend educational programs.
Since the campaign began, South Coast's status as a birthplace for important new works has been certified by back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes in 1999 and 2000 for plays commissioned and first produced at the theater: Margaret Edson's "Wit" and Donald Margulies' "Dinner With Friends." Productions of both recently appeared on HBO.
Such credentials have played well with donors and boosted the funding campaign's success, Emmes said. "That's been very helpful in reinforcing that SCR has a national reputation and that we are playing a leadership role in the American theater."
Raising an additional $10 million will help South Coast remain at the forefront, Emmes said. SCR would use some of the money to create a fund that would enable it to continue developing plays, at least matching the current commission budget of $200,000 a year, with playwrights getting $10,000 to $25,000 per script, depending on their experience and stature.
Part would be allocated toward staging shows with large casts and complex sets, at a time when the trend among nonprofit theaters is toward smaller and less expensive productions.
South Coast officials announced that they were raising the bar on fund-raising during a ceremony Friday in which the uppermost steel beam was placed on the three-story addition, which will house the Julianne Argyros Stage. It is scheduled to open in October.