Everyone’s an Angel
Chapter in Angels in the American Theater: Patron, Patronage, and Philanthropy,
ed. Robert A. Schanke, Southern Illinois University Press, 2007
Published in Angles in the American Theatre: Patrons, Patronage and Philanthropy, ed. Robert A. Schanke.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007.
by Dan Friedman
The voice of this chapter is not the usual scholarly or journalistic third person, but the subjective first person plural. While I hold a doctorate in theatre history and have made use of the discipline and methodology of an historian, I am also a founder of the Castillo Theatre of which I write and, thus, am an active agent in the story I relate. While I make no claim to objectivity, I have worked hard to assure accuracy. At times for narrative purposes, I refer to Castillo as “it,” but primarily I have chosen the plural “we” to convey the collective building of Castillo, of which I am a part—one of its builders and the teller of our story.
The Castillo Theatre in New York City raises money like no other theatre in the United States. It is a non-profit theatre with an annual operating budget of $900,000 that takes no funds from federal, state or municipal arts councils. It has no individual or family patron upon which it depends. Nor does it rely on foundation or corporate funding. Instead, the Castillo Theatre has organized, over two decades of intensive outreach, a broad base of individual contributors. Over the 22 years of its existence, roughly half a million people have contributed to the All Stars Project, Inc., the non-profit cultural organization of which the Castillo Theatre, the All Stars Talent Show Network and related performatory youth programs are a part. Currently 5,000 people contribute anywhere from $35 to many thousands of dollars on an annual basis.
What makes this all the more remarkable is that Castillo is a radical theatre, producing what it calls “postmodern political theatre.” The core of its repertory is the work of its artistic director and playwright-in-residence Fred Newman whose topics include America’s legacy of slavery and racism, Black-Jewish relations, and the limits of identity politics. Castillo is the major producer in the United States of the east German avant-gardist Heiner Müller and has also produced other political playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht, Peter Weiss, Aimé Césaire, Ed Bullins, and the Israeli Josef Mundi.
Despite the political and experimental nature of its work, the band of angels who make Castillo financially possible is not limited to those who share the views of its artists. Those who contribute to Castillo—and make up its audience—range from Wall Street executives to Black church ladies, from same sex couples in Chelsea to suburban families in Connecticut, from unreconstructed communists to blue blooded Republicans.
Castillo and the All Stars Talent Show Network, which produces talent shows with young people in inner-city communities, were launched in 1983 by a small group of community organizers and political activists, some with arts backgrounds, others without, all of whom wanted to find ways to create cultural projects that could reach out to and involve people who usually didn’t think of themselves as theatre goers or creators of culture. This grouping concluded that culture—the organization of how we, the human species, see—was seriously neglected by social change activists and was determined to do something about that.
Since this group of organizers did not have the financial resources to fund these projects on their own, and since they were interested in creating a theatre that would function as a community social forum, the funding and the building of the Castillo Theatre and the All Stars Talent Show Network were entirely interwoven from the start. In the case of Castillo, the founders faced the same challenge faced by all non-profit theatres in the United States, namely, the need to fill the unavoidable gap between what can be taken in by the box office and the cost of production. The solution Castillo developed during the first decade of its existence would set it apart from all other non-profit theatres in the country and would bring into being an unusually close relationship between the theatre and its audience, many of who are also Castillo’s numerous modest “angels.”
For the founders of the Castillo Theatre—including this author—bridging the gap raised political as well as economic issues. On the practical level, it was obvious that the usual funding sources for non-profit arts projects, the liberal foundations and the NEA under the newly elected Ronald Reagan, could not be counted on to financially underwrite the kind of theatre—mostly utilizing untrained community people as performers in plays with radical political content—that we had begun to produce. On the principled level, we were committed to doing theatre for and with communities that usually didn’t go to the theatre. Therefore, we were determined to find a way to give the people in these communities a stake in seeing (and creating) theatre.
The nine people who in 1983 constituted themselves as the “Castillo Collective” initially came together through community organizing and political activism. We were attracted to a progressive political movement, led by Fred Newman, in which cultural and emotional change was seen as important as political and economic transformation. This movement was seeking ways to express itself culturally and Newman encouraged the formation of Castillo. With Newman’s leadership, the Castillo Collective began the search for an independent way to bridge the gap between box office income and production expenses while at the same time building an intimate and active interface with its audience/community.
That we were able to begin the search without resorting to government art councils or corporate foundations was due to the fact that the political movement we were a part of had already been active for a decade and was able to provide us with the beginnings of an audience drawn from community and political organizations around New York City as well as with in-kind resources. In particular, the Castillo Theatre originated as a project of the New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research, an organization of radical developmental psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers founded in 1979 by, among others, Newman and Lois Holzman. The Institute was busy developing social therapy, a non-psychological approach to human emotionality and development, and establishing social therapy centers around the New York City metro area. However, the Institute saw its mission as broader than therapy. It wanted to engage both the psychological and cultural establishments as a means of furthering individual and social development. So the Institute was happy to help Castillo get started.
For the first five years of its existence, the Castillo Theatre performed rent-free in a large room in one the Institute’s locations, a loft on East 20th Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The early years were characterized by rough-hewn theatrical experimentation. Among the early experiments, were: A Demonstration: Common Women, the Uncommon Lives of Ordinary Women (1986) which brought together non-actors from the community—specifically welfare activists, mostly Black women, and white radical lesbians—for a performed confrontation that spun off into a montage of scenes, poems, songs and video clips; From Gold to Platinum (1986), a political science fiction play about a second American Revolution which was compiled/written through a series of meetings and improvisations with community organizations throughout New York City; All My Cadre(1987), a soap opera about a group of young and restless leftists in New York City; and a seven-hour interactive production of Heiner Müller’s Description of a Picture/Explosion of a Memory (1992). In 1986, Castillo produced its first play by Newman, Mr. Hirsch Died Yesterday; since then it has staged some 30 Newman plays and musicals, and in 1989 Newman became the theatre’s artistic director.
During these first years, however, the direction Castillo would take was far from clear. As this sampling suggests, the Castillo was moving in a number of directions at once. Some of the members came out of political street theatres of the 1960s and ‘70s, others from the European avant-garde, still others from the feminist stand-up comedy scene, so just what kind of theatre we would produce was a matter of dispute. In this regard, our strength was that we practiced our differences, rather than just arguing about them. One thing was clear, however: the set up with the Institute was temporary and Castillo, if it were to last, would need to find a way to be self-sufficient.
In1981, the activist community of which Castillo and the Institute were to become a part had established a non-profit organization, the Community Literacy Research Project (CLRP), which, as its name implies, was established to fund literacy classes for adults. During the ’80s the CLRP evolved into a non-profit that raised money for the community’s nascent cultural and youth projects. In 1989, the CLRP made a major investment. With the financial help of Judy Penzer—a painter, Castillo founder and daughter of commercial real estate investor—the CLRP purchased a 9,000-foot loft at 500 Greenwich Street in far west Soho. The non-profit rented part of the space to the East Side Center for Social Therapy, which practiced the social therapy developed by the New York Institute. The rest of the space was rented to Castillo and a collection of politically oriented periodicals. Part of the space was outfitted as a small theater for Castillo, and the rest as a newsroom and print production facility. By 1994, the publications had all been closed and the Castillo Theatre was flourishing. The move ushered in a new era for Castillo. Castillo now had to not only finance its shows, but to pay the rent every month.
What we wound up doing was taking up the model of community outreach that we knew from our earlier political organizing. All of us had worked street corners for independent political candidates in the ’80s. Some of us had canvassed, raising money for the Washington, D.C.-based Rainbow Lobby. Given our political history, what we did to insure the survival of our theatre made perfect sense: we set up tables on street corners and started talking to passers-by about Castillo. When it got too cold on the street, we moved to the subway platforms. We eventually set up a canvassing operation, going up and down halls in apartment buildings knocking on every door. We worked neighborhoods all over the New York metropolitan area.
The tables on the street would be supplied with a poster and some flyers and the Castillo volunteers would approach strangers, saying something like: “Hi, my name is So and So. I’m an adjunct professor (or a costume designer or an office manager or a social worker or whatever) and I’m volunteering today to raise money for a theatre that doesn’t take government or corporate money. We’re building an independent theatre because we want a place where we can take artistic and political risks without always looking over our shoulder worrying if someone is going to pull the plug on us.”
Of course, most people didn’t stop. Some were downright nasty. But a few folks would stop and listen, and a certain percentage of those who listened, who held conversations with Castillo’s organizers, would make a contribution. In the early days they often said something like, “I don’t think this has the chance of a snowball in hell of working, but I like that you’re out here trying, so here’s ten dollars.”
The Castillo organizer would typically respond, “Thanks, that’s great. I’d love to take your name and phone number so we can call you back, invite you to a play and ask you for more money.” The person who had just given a donation would usually smile or chuckle and give us their phone number. (And we, indeed, did call them back within a few months to sell them a ticket to a play and ask them for more money.) That exchange repeated countless times is how at the end of Castillo’s first decade it had a data base in the tens of thousands of people who had given ten dollars or more, their phone numbers, and permission to call them.
“In the early years what was significant was that we were out there; that’s what organized people,” recalled Gabrielle L. Kurlander, an actress with Castillo since 1986 and president since 1990 of the Community Literacy Research Project (now known as the All Stars Project, Inc.). “We were selling visions and ideas. As we moved further along in our history, we actually had small but visible accomplishments, but in the early days people on the street were responding not so much to our product but to our spirit. In a certain sense we were selling hope. What is significant is that people bought.”
Gladys Janava, who has been a regular donor to Castillo since the mid-1990s, put it this way: “I first gave money to a volunteer on Montague Street in Brooklyn. I used to give money whenever they were out there because I liked what they were saying…. I used to subscribe to the theatre season but never used my tickets. One day I decided to go see a play at Castillo and I fell in love.”
The street operation was up and running seven days a week. All Castillo Collective members were volunteers and the street organizing was done in the evenings after paying jobs and on weekends. We set ourselves quotas. Castillo needed a certain amount of money to pay the rent and produce the season and so if we didn’t, for example, make the goal set for a particular Saturday in eight hours, we stayed out ten or twelve or whatever it took.
Everyone involved with Castillo during this period—actors, directors, designers, playwrights, and non-artists who believed in the project’s importance—participated in this outreach. It was extremely demanding and time-consuming and there were those in the Castillo Collective who were conflicted or who openly resisted doing the street work. “As a political artist, I, of course, support our independence,” they’d say, in effect. “I agree we shouldn’t take government or corporate money. But I’m a director, not a fundraiser. You raise the money and I’ll direct the plays.” There were intense disagreements about this and some of Castillo’s founders and early builders, rather than keep doing this work, left. The remarkable thing, perhaps, is that more people joined than departed. People met on the street, and people who came to see Castillo’s shows asked how they might help in addition to giving money or buying a ticket. Castillo’s handful of organizers grew, by the mid-90s, to scores of people deployed to the streets on a regular basis.
This was also the period during which Newman became Castillo’s artistic director and playwright-in-residence and the theatre’s work became increasingly identified with his plays. Newman, who started out and has remained a radical political leader, explores in his plays ethical and political issues of concern to both his political movement and the larger world. Sally & Tom (The American Way) (1995), for example, is a musical that looks at the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, a 35-year-long relationship which embodied the contradiction between democracy and slavery and the legacy of racism that continues to define so much of American history and culture. Lenin’s Breakdown (1994) portrays Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, as an old homeless man who checks himself into Bellevue, a mental hospital in New York City, looking to understand the failure of his life (and of 20th century communism). In Sessions With Jesus (2002) Jesus returns to earth (the Upper West Side of Manhattan to be precise) looking for a therapist. He needs a therapist because he is hearing the voice of Osma bin Laden asking for forgiveness. Jesus, of course, is all about forgiveness, but he’s having a hard time forgiving the mass murderer.
While the form and style of Newman’s plays have varied a great deal over the years, for the most part, they have come to approximate conventional realist plays—at least in their beginnings. They then tend to evolve—or devolve, depending on your perspective—into philosophical conversations that resolve none of the conflicts raised by the play. As Richard Schechner put it in an interview in the early 1990s, “I would call Fred Newman’s theatre a New York ’90s working class style of performing. It’s not the style of Stanislavski to Strasberg to Adler to you. Newman’s work is the display of contradictions. There is no attempt to resolve and therefore the question becomes: What future do you want to construct?”
This period following the move to Greenwich Street also coincided with a virtual blackout of critical response to Castillo’s work. The involvement of Newman and other leaders of Castillo in independent, left-of-center politics (from 1979 to 1994 with the pro-socialist New Alliance Party) made us an anathema in particular to the Village Voice, leftist gatekeepers of avant-garde and alternative theatre in New York City. The weekly was born in the 1950s as the “voice” of the reform Democratic Party clubs—which by the 1970s had become the Democratic Party establishment in the New York City. That establishment apparently felt threatened by the small successes of the New Alliance Party in the city’s African American, Puerto Rican, gay and liberal Jewish communities. In a Voice article about the opening of Castillo’s new space on Greenwich Street (which was attended by JoAnne Akalaitis, Richard Foreman, Bill T. Jones, Judith Malina, Richard Schechner and Robert Wilson, among others), Alisa Solomon declared that Castillo was not a theatre at all, but a fund raising scam for the New Alliance Party. After that issue (which included a slam of Castillo’s first production of Müller’s The Task), the Voice never again reviewed a Castillo production, and without the imprimatur of the Village Voice, none of the dailies would consider a review.
Although there have been dozens of pieces about Castillo productions in local community weeklies over the subsequent 15 years, it would take Castillo’s move to 42nd Street in 2004 to get a review in the New York Times. In a lackluster review of Stealin’ Home (A Baseball Fantasy), Newman’s play about Jackie Robinson, critic Eddie Goldstein wrote, “Stealin’ Home has much to share on racism, hero worship, cultural changes in the United States and latent homosexuality in the locker room. Perhaps the most valuable insight on contemporary role models is that only heroes in tights and capes can live a live time in the public eye without regrets.” During the first two years on 42nd Street, the Times has reviewed three productions by Youth Onstage!, the All Stars Project’s new youth theatre, as well as Day of Reckoning, a play about the 19th Century anarchists Albert and Lucy Parson, by Melody Cooper. The other dailies have continued to keep their distance.
At a celebration of Castillo’s move uptown held at Sardi’s in September 2004, Castillo was welcomed to the commercial theatre district by Julio Petersen of the Shubert Organization, Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, Ken Cerniglia, associate dramaturg at Disney Theatrical, and Ben Cameron, executive director of the Theatre Communications Group. All of which is testimony to the power of the Castillo funding model. Despite the virtual boycott by the city’s press, the years of intensive street fundraising/audience-building succeeded in what it set out to do, bridging the ongoing gap between ticket sales and production costs without resorting to government, corporate or foundation money—at the same time, winning the respect of many fellow theatre producers and artists. Throughout the period of street work and canvassing, Castillo produced full seasons of up to nine plays a year, often filling the house without either a review or a penny of government funds and virtually no foundation money. At the end of its first decade, Castillo had proven that an alternative funding model for non-profit theatre in the United States was possible.
The years of street work and canvassing accomplished something else as well—a diverse audience with a close and active relationship with the theatre. Castillo had started with a core audience of political activists and others whom they were organizing, primarily from the African American and Puerto Rican communities around the city. The street outreach expanded the Castillo audience dramatically, and over the years it came to include elements of the younger, hip crowd that attends off-off Broadway, along with over-50 upper middle class Broadway aficionados. It also includes a large proportion of Black, Latino and other working class people from the boroughs, business people who don’t usually attend theatre and international visitors.
People come to Castillo because, for the most part, they met Castillo on the street or on the phone. They come because they or someone they know is a Castillo investor, a Castillo angel. They may have given $5 on the street ten years ago; they may have contributed $5,000 last month. They may never have given money, but may have been volunteering on house staff for the last two years. Whatever the specifics, it is their theatre. Attending a show is, for most Castillo audience members, a social and civic activity. “I feel like there is a loss of community in New York and in America. The value of neighbors—the ability to share—is being lost,” said Mike Grannum, explaining why he donates to Castillo and attends plays regularly. “Castillo’s work of bringing people together to build community is extraordinarily important. It’s a way we’re talking to one another.”
Castillo’s audience comes to see the issues and concerns of New York City and the larger world explored and played with, and this laboratory of the social imagination is theirs—it is funded and sustained by them. “I moved to New York City in 1992, and soon after I was walking down 86th Street when a nice young lady with a clipboard appeared,” said retired health care l administrator Michael Dean recalling how he first encountered Castillo. “I’ve continued to support it all these years because it’s a theatre that takes very seriously addressing the inequalities of our society. While I’m not always entertained by Castillo’s productions, I feel an obligation to be supportive of this kind of work so that it can keep getting better.”
In this sense, Castillo is a community theatre, although its community is neither geographical nor ethnic. The Castillo community is an open and self-defining community that Castillo itself has helped bring into being through its ongoing grassroots outreach. Here it is helpful to broaden our lens, for the community of which Castillo is a part was not built by Castillo alone. It is doubtful, given the conservative political atmosphere of the last 25 years, that it could have reached its current level of financial security as a freestanding political theatre, no matter how extensive its street operation.
While Castillo was being built without government or corporate money, other activists from the same political movement were building other cultural and political organizations in the same manner. This network of organizations and projects became Castillo’s larger community. The All Stars Talent Show Network (ASTSN) has been of particular importance in the growth and development of Castillo. The ASTSN was launched in the same year as Castillo. Its initial impetus came from members of the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council who asked Castillo’s founders to organize something positive for their kids to do. The All Stars Talent Show Network was originally produced by Castillo in church basements and community centers in some of New York City’s poorest communities.
In 1989, the same year that Castillo moved to its Greenwich Street location, Pam Lewis, an actress and singer who had been performing with and building Castillo since 1985, became the producer of the All Stars Talent Show Network. Under her leadership the program grew from a project of the Castillo Theatre to a large self-sufficient cultural program for youth that outpaced Castillo both in terms of the number of participants (performers and audience) and the amount of money it was able to raise. Today the Talent Show Network involves many thousands of young people each year in New York City and hundreds more in Newark, New Jersey. Elsewhere, the All Stars Talent Show Network is being produced by local organizations in Atlanta, Oakland, Los Angeles and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In New York, a typical show attracts some 300 performers (dancers, singers, rappers, poets and instrumentalists between the age of 5 and 25) and 1,500 audience members. Community centers have long since given way to high school auditoriums, the only venues large enough for a show of this size in most working- class communities.
As progressives, some of those organizing/fundraising on the street and at the door for the Talent Show Network in the early 1990s were pleasantly surprised to learn that the appeal of a community-based youth development program crossed political and ideological lines. Not only liberals and progressives, but also conservatives were willing to support a performatory youth program based in the city’s poorest communities. For many conservatives the fact that the program did not take government money was a plus.
“No one ever went to conservatives and said to them, ‘You have to support an effort to do something about the poverty and underdevelopment of Black and Hispanic people,’” points out Kurlander. “People went to liberals and progressives for that, mostly through the funding conduits of the Democratic Party.”
We’ve learned that you don’t have to be a progressive or a liberal to realize there’s something wrong in this country, to feel that people and communities are underdeveloped and to want to do something about that.…We work to win conservatives, and all other donors, over to creating a social connection between themselves and their networks and people from other strata of society—with poor people, the young people in the Talent Show Network, and with the people who have built the All Stars and Castillo, people who are progressive political activists.
In 1998 Castillo joined the ASTSN as a program of the Community Literary Research Project, and the following year the CLRP changed its name to the All Stars Project, Inc. The All Stars Project now includes, in addition to Castillo and the Talent Show Network, two newer programs, the Development School for Youth and Youth Onstage! Donors now were organized around the totality of the work. Chris Street, the All Stars Project’s director of development, recalls it this way:
During the transition period, when the theatre and the All Stars ceased being separate non-profits, there were donors who had originally given to the talent show who questioned why we did the theatre.…We said, “We think it’s important to do both, and we make this whole thing work, so at the very least you have to have a discussion with us about that.…If you like the development work we’re doing, then you have to take a look at the fact that we think a politically engaged, independently funded theatre is an important part of the creative mix of this community.”
That initial resistance not withstanding, funding levels have continued to rise, and even people who neither like the art nor the political perspective of Castillo’s artists continue to give—and to attend the productions. Kurlander explained the phenomenon:
Business people have investment portfolios—stocks and bonds—and they put maybe five percent of their investments into experimental, really risky stuff. Philanthropically, that’s us.…We say to the donors, “Give to the traditional stuff. Give to the opera and ballet and your alma mater, but you have to up the percentage you’re giving to the culturally experimental, the offbeat, the change-the-world effort.” That’s compelling to people, not everybody, of course, but to a lot of people.
In 2003 the All Stars Project, Inc. was able to purchase and renovate—at a total cost of $11.7 million—a performing arts and education complex at 543 West 42nd Street not far from Times Square. It contains three theatre spaces, rehearsal rooms, costume and set shops, dressing rooms and offices. This new All Stars Project headquarters is now home to Castillo and Youth Onstage!, and contains the offices of the ASTSN and the Development School for Youth.
Throughout their histories, the ASTSN and Castillo have maintained a close relationship. In the earliest days Castillo produced the talent shows—setting up and running the sound system, painting the backdrops, hanging and running whatever lights were available, etc. Under Lewis’s leadership, Castillo artists and technicians taught these skills to young people in the program, who have, for more than a decade now, run all tech, stage and house management themselves. In the ‘90s there were a number of Castillo productions that involved young performers from the ASTSN. The opening of the new space on 42nd Street has significantly deepened the cross fertilization between the two projects. It has allowed for the formation of a youth theatre, Youth Onstage!, and for much more interaction between Castillo and the young people in the other programs of the All Stars Project. A new theatrical form, the Hip-Hop Cabaret, featuring alumni of the talent show has emerged at the All Stars’ 42nd Street complex. It combines the energy and creativity of hip-hop with the European political cabaret tradition. During the 2004-2005 season, in addition to two plays and two Hip-Hop Cabarets produced by Youth Onstage!, two Castillo productions—Have You Ever Seen A Dream Rapping? and License to Dream (done with the David Parsons Dancers)—featured young performers from Youth Onstage! and the Talent Show Network.
Kurlander likens the relationship between Castillo and the All Stars youth programs to the relationship found in many non-profit professional theatres between their productions and their education departments: “The Public Theatre, the Roundabout Theatre, all the major non-profit theatres have education departments. They get particular kinds of grants from particular kinds of sources to run programs for young people that help support their overall staffing of the theatre, and some of the theatre’s activities that are harder to support. We’re kind of like an education outfit with a theatre department. Another way to put it is that we take our education department very, very seriously.”
The development of the All Stars Project, Inc. as a non-profit that included both the Talent Show Network and Castillo took place under Kurlander’s leadership and coincided with a vast expansion of the fund raising capacities of both entities. During their first decade, the Castillo Theatre and the All Stars Talent Show Network had gathered a database of some 100,000 people who had given at least $10 (and their phone numbers). Given that base, we were able to gradually transition to a primarily phone operation, although street work has never ceased to be a part of the mix for Castillo.
In 1989, when Castillo and the Network were both still primarily street operations, they raised a total of $250,000. In 2000, nearly six years after Castillo had transitioned to a primarily phone operation and had learned how to organize people to give larger sums, the All Stars Project Inc. brought in $3.8 million in donations. Since then (the last five years) it has raised $31 million in private donations, $4 million in 2004 alone, a 17 percent increase over 2003. In addition to giving money, of the approximately 5,000 people who give to the All Stars each year, some of them are business people who actively reach out to friends and co-workers to give to the All Stars, thus themselves becoming volunteer fundraisers/producers of the Talent Show and Castillo.
In 1994, the Community Literacy Research Project (now the All Stars Project, Inc.) started a President’s Committee consisting of those who gave $1,000 or more annually. Today it involves 500 business leaders and concerned citizens in 17 states. Counted among its members are seventy-five managing directors and partners in major Wall Street firms, hedge funds, Fortune 500 companies and national law firms. Learning how to ask for larger sums was a challenging process. “People won’t give you a $1,000 if you don’t ask for it,” notes Kurlander. “We didn’t know how to do it before we did it. I literally went and asked some people for $50,000. It didn’t work at first but I became someone who could ask for that kind of money and we soon found the people who could give it.” In 2004 the largest single donation to the All Stars was $250,000—the total amount raised 15 years earlier.
Also contributing to this transition was the fact that a number of early All Stars’ volunteer organizer/fundraisers—in particular Jeff Aron and Bonny Gildin—found jobs as professional fundraisers at other non-profits in the mid-90s. “We didn’t know most of the traditional ways things got done, so we learned a lot from their experience,” recalls Street. As the All Stars grew, it was able to hire a number of these former volunteers as full-time fundraisers. “One big thing it did it was it gave them confidence,” continues Street. “Our method is the method we developed—grassroots, in your face. Jeff [Aron] helped to develop that approach and then came back with the experience of a very successful traditional fundraiser as well. It gave them a worldliness that has been an important part of our success.”
While the size of some of the donations has grown considerably and the number of people giving at any one time has gotten smaller, the broad base of the outreach and fundraising remains the dynamic through which Castillo and all the projects of the All Stars Project continue to grow.
“The key is that we are always bringing new people in,” explains Street.
The top end is always looking to see if you’re bringing new people in, otherwise they leave. That’s critical and that’s why we work to bring new Castillo donors in at $35 year, so the $100,000 donors know that they are not alone and that the theatre is healthy.…One tenth of one percent of those $35 donors goes on to give you $100,00 some day, but even if they never do, it’s part of deepening the community and people see that you’re busting your ass, that you’re still on the street. They see that all sorts of people are supporting this with their money. It’s just that some of them have more money and some have less money. If you have more money, you can give more money, but we at Castillo relate to everyone as an angel.