CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- After a year of challenges, the Swift Creek Mill Theatre is getting a major boost thanks to a mystery donor.
The theatre, which had to shutter because of the pandemic and was damaged by flooding in August, is now debt-free.
Looking at the freshly painted walls inside the historic venue, it is hard to imagine just six months ago major flooding could have spelled the end for the theatre.
"As tragic as all of this was, some very good things are coming out of it,” Swift Creek Mill Theatre Artistic Director Tom Width said.
For Steven Koehler, the flood and pandemic have shined new light on the historic building, which dates back to 1663, and the theatre it houses.
"I am impressed, surprised, happy, ecstatic, thrilled,” Koehler, the theatre’s managing director, said. "Really, this entire last year, going back to last March, has shown us how much our patrons, and our donors, and our friends care about us, and want to make sure we succeed."
Koehler said a mystery donor’s gift in December, which was just over $600,000, cleared away the rest of the theatre’s debt.
As renovations continue, bringing new life to the theatre, they are financially sound.
And new audiences are being reached beyond the borders of Central Virginia thanks to video performances.
"To keep our visibility out there so that people will know we haven't left them, we're not going,” Width added.
Additionally, in any given year plays aimed at children and youth draw big audiences.
"We have 15,000 kids a year come through this 230-seat theatre,” Width said.
Width is hopeful that by this fall the lights will once again dim on the stage with a full house watching.
“We have a new awareness from the public of what's needed here and how valuable we are and that's been really great for us,” Width said.