The curtain may soon fall on a longtime children’s theater group in Arlington. Creative Arts Theatre and School – or CATS – has suffered through two fires in the past two years. Now, the 35-year-old organization is fighting to survive.
The team at CATS says some of their favorite productions are the ones about overcoming the odds and rising from the ashes. They’re praying the same thing can happen in real life.
“I don’t see that CATS is going to be around much longer,” said Heather Simmons, Executive Director of CATS.
The non-profit has struggled financially since a fire claimed its original building on Randol Mill Road back in 2012. Their insurance paid off the mortgage on the building, but left them with no additional money to relocate or buy new supplies.
Things were looking up when they relocated to E. South Street in Downtown Arlington. They found a potential buyer for their old building and the property was under contract. But that fell through in January when a second fire ripped through the Randol Mill building, pushing CATS to the brink.
“We just need some help,” said Merri Brewer, Producing Director for CATS.
In addition to paying for their new building, CATS still has to pay expenses on the old property. And until they sell it, banks won’t give them a loan.
Macy Rand and Brittany Parrish have been coming to CATS for nearly ten years. They say they can’t imagine life without it.
“This is my home,” said Parrish. “This is where I spend all of my time. I’m usually here four days a week if I’m not in a show. We’re a big family.”
“Being here has helped me prepare for the real world, not just in theater, but in being a person,” said Rand.
CATS has been a creative outlet for more than 10,000 students in its 35 year history.
“It taught me how to be myself, getting to do shows,” said Andrew Gentry, a 17-year-old who has been coming to CATS since he was young. “And it’s fun getting to pass that on to the younger kids.”
“It’s built my kids' self-esteem,” said Michelle Parks, whose two children have been coming to CATS for six years. “I think it’s also shaped their creativity and the way they can speak in front of adults and their classes.”
Simmons and Brewer say it’s because of those kids, they’re not ready to give up.
“It would be hard to get up and come to work every day if you didn’t believe,” said Brewer.
They’re asking the community to support them in the coming weeks.
Their latest production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” will run March 28 and 29, and April 4 and 5 at Mosaic, which is located at 817 W. Park Row Drive in Arlington. Performances will start at 7:30pm on the Friday dates and 2:30pm and 7:30pm on the Saturday dates. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students, military and seniors.
On April 26, they’ll host a special fundraising dinner and auction called “Boots and Bling.” Tickets are $75 per person or $600 for a table of eight. You must RSVP by April 18.
Finally, they’re asking anyone who wants to support their mission to donate online at www.creativearts.org.
They remain optimistic that with community support, they can stay afloat long enough to sell the property and get the happy ending they’re looking for.