White Barn supporters need $55,000 by Friday to save theater

A shot from WhiteBarnTheatre.org.

A shot from WhiteBarnTheatre.org.

Updated, 5 a.m.: Clarification.

NORWALK, Conn. – Supporters of the historic White Barn Theater have just three days to raise $55,000 – in cash – or the theater will be demolished, Attorney Stephen Nevas said.

Jim Fieber, the developer who won Zoning approval to build a conservation development on the former Lucille Lortel estate on the Westport/Norwalk line, has demanded $100,000 in cash by Friday, Nevas said. The White Barn Foundation has raised $45,000 but it’s difficult because donors don’t like the fact that the money is nonrefundable, he said.

If the foundation produced $100,000 and then did not close on the deal in May, the money would be Fieber’s, Nevas said.

Fieber did not return a phone call asking for comment.

Fieber gave the foundation two weeks to raise the money, Nevas said. In that time period, the foundation announced that it had secured a major donor to provide a $250,000 matching gift.

Peggy Holton, a Foundation Board Member and Vice President of the Norwalk Land Trust, said in January that the foundation needed $600,000 by April to save the theater, founded and operated for decades by the late Lortel, proclaimed by many as the “Queen of Broadway.”

Fieber is demanding a cash deposit to go forward, Fieber said Tuesday.

“We’ve been discussing it with him but they basically told us Friday is a drop dead day,” Nevas said.

A press release said:

“Led by Lortel’s great-nephew Waldo Mayo, the Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, seeks additional funding by performing arts supporters to bring the Theatre back to life. The Foundation is planning to create a state-of-the-art theater as an incubator for new works and talent while offering unique job and educational opportunities for local students and emerging theater artists. Preservation and rehabilitation of the Theatre would also save the 15-acre wooded site that houses the Theatre.  It is one of the last large, privately-owned open spaces in Fairfield County.

“Donations of $5,000 or more are urgently needed.  Please contact Waldo Mayo at 561-632-0284 or email [email protected].  There are also several naming opportunities available for this project.  For more information, see the website whitebarntheatre.org.”


“The difficulty is that this is a charitable organization,” Nevas said. “The developer is insisting that the deposit is nonrefundable and donors have expressed more than a little discomfort with that. But we have been unsuccessfully trying to negotiate some compromise on that term.”

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