TRAVERSE CITY — It’s winter picnic time again at the City Opera House — this time to raise money for the historic performing arts center itself.
The 121-year-old brick entertainment hall needs to fill a $250,000 budget gap after Wharton Center officials announced in November they will discontinue paying to fill the shortfall.
“Picnic with Miriam Pico,” a Traverse City televised live variety show launched last winter to raise money for area nonprofits, will hit the stage for another six-week run of Wednesday “bring-your-own bag” lunches. This time the showcase of local talent will solicit donations to save the City Opera House, also sometimes called the “grand lady,” by Kristi Dokter, its operations and marketing director.
The noon shows start Jan. 22 and run through Feb. 26. Admission is free, but organizers pass a hat for donations.
More than 600 people – an average 100 per show – crowded into the Opera House’s second-floor reception area last year to watch not only the entertainment but also the people with “Applause!” signs and other stage directions. The six shows raised $2,825 in donations, said Karen Fulkerson, UpNorthMedia Center’s outreach director.
The hour-long variety shows were so popular that they will be moved to the auditorium, which will seat more than 150 patrons cabaret style, said Dokter. That adds an extra 300 chairs to series’ six shows.
Tables with chairs for about 170 people will sprawl on the auditorium floor in front of the stage and another 50 chairs will ring the perimeter.
“Plus we also can use the upstairs balcony,” Dokter said.
All proceeds this year will go to the 686-seat Opera House, a nonprofit that last year hosted 130 events, including 30 performing arts productions.
Pico, a popular Traverse City singer and songwriter, will lead the show that also will be broadcast live by UpNorthTV, the community’s public access television station.