MIDWAY — For years, Thoroughbred Community Theatre in Midway has been an outlet for area artists, including local rock 'n' roll bands who used the venue to showcase their talent.
Those bands will return the favor Friday night by playing a benefit concert to help the financially strapped theater.
Patrick Denney, 17, of Versailles, a rhythm guitarist and one of two singers in a band called Volume 11, said he wanted to do something for Jim and John McDaniel, the brothers who operate the theater. Volume 11 is one of several bands that will play Friday.
"They have been just so good to us and treated us like we weren't just kids," Denney said. "I would hate to see them go down, so I figured the least we could do was earn them some money, buy them some time, so they could figure out what's going to happen. I want to keep the theater open."
Since the early 2000s, the theater has held swing-dance lessons; hosted comedian Etta May; provided space for birthday parties; shown movies and plays; and hosted fund-raisers for Old Friends, a retirement center for thoroughbred horses, and for Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, the annual summer show on the Midway College campus.
But the McDaniels, who are natives of Midway, have had trouble finding enough programs to pay the monthly lease and utilities.
"We grew up with this thing, and it has gotten larger and more complicated," Jim McDaniel said. "We've reached a point where we need to pass our administration over to a professional, and we need to up our promotions and marketing and up our business plan most of all."
The McDaniels bought the building in downtown Midway in 2002 and then sold it to Tony Moreno in 2003. The brothers remain in charge of booking acts and events.
"They've done nothing but live and breathe it," Lauren Hill, chairwoman of the theater's board of directors, said in an interview last month.
But, she said, "We need time to hunker down and get a plan — get some sponsors, get the community more involved. ... We need about $20,000 to stay open and retrench.
"If we don't get that help, we're going to have to close the doors."
The theater held an open house April 8 so residents could drop in and learn what the venue provides and what it needs. That led to contributions of $3,900.
In addition, the Thoroughbred's board of directors has had two strategic planning sessions with Joanna Hay, a consultant paid through a Kentucky Arts Council grant, to discuss what it will take to make the theater a success.
"Theaters do have a challenge in that ticket sales alone cannot maintain a facility," Hay said. She said the Thoroughbred has a "really strong volunteer corps" willing to help, and it has good leadership.
"They need to have business sponsors to support the programs, which can also help market the programs. In a smaller town, that's always a challenge because you don't have the big companies. But, you know, the larger arts organizations are having the same struggles at the moment in this economy because corporate sponsorships are down or are shifting their priorities."
In addition, the theater has filed for non-profit status so donations made to it will be tax-deductible, Jim McDaniel said.
The building the Thoroughbred calls home opened as a theater for silent movies in 1916. It continued to operate as a movie theater into the 1950s. Later, it was occupied by several retailers, including a hardware store.
Moreno renovated the property and gave its interior a local flavor by bringing in paddock railings, red stall doors and green doors from a mare barn — all salvaged from area horse farms.
Hill, a teacher, is a singer who has performed on the Thoroughbred's stage.
"My daughter is 6 and, for the last four years, we have had her birthday party there," Hill said. "She has grown up and learned to sing on that stage. Everything she loves about her town is centered around that theater. I will use every ounce of energy that I have to fix this. The town needs it. My daughter needs it. I need it."