Com­edy se­ries seeks to help town, ben­e­fit non­prof­its

Com­edy se­ries seeks to re­vi­tal­ize town, ben­e­fit lo­cal non­prof­its

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

Evie Hunger­ford has seen the Town of In­dian Head morph from a thriv­ing small town to an area strug­gling to keep busi­nesses afloat. The for­mer pub­lic re­la­tions and mar­ket­ing busi­ness owner has lived in In­dian Head all her life and as­pires to bring the town back to its for­mer glory.

“When I was grow­ing up here in the 1950s, In­dian Head was a dream place,” Hunger­ford said. “Ev­ery­thing was walk­a­ble. Skat­ing rinks, a swim­ming pool, movie the­ater, just any­thing you could think of.”

The once “boom­ing” town, as Hunger­ford de­scribed it, boasted three gro­cery stores, three car deal­er­ships, Ely’s depart­ment store and other ameni­ties that made it a vi­able place to live. Now, not only are there no gro­cery stores in In­dian Head, but the last bank shut its doors in De­cem­ber and empty store­fronts are a com­mon sight through­out the town.

See­ing how In­dian Head has changed makes Hunger­ford de­spon­dent, but also de­ter­mined in her ef­forts.

With the help of a Mary­land State Bond Bill grant and del­e­ga­tion sup­port, Hunger­ford said a re­vi­tal­iza­tion and renovation is un­der­way for the Black Box The­atre, home of the In­dian Head Cen­ter for the Arts.

The the­ater — pre­vi­ously a car deal­er­ship, meet­ing space for the town’s busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion and where Hunger­ford took and taught dance lessons — was do­nated by the town in 2001. Ren­o­va­tions have made it use­able for meet­ings, of­fice spa­ces and more for non­prof­its to host their func­tions.

The ar­range­ment is a “win­win” for artists and non­prof­its, Hunger­ford said. Where artists have a venue to per­form or non­prof­its have a stage to host fundrais­ing events, the town re­gains en­ter­tain­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“I am de­ter­mined that this is go­ing to suc­ceed,” Hunger­ford said of her mis­sion. “...It’s a la­bor of love for a com­mu­nity that was so good to me.”

The the­ater’s monthly “Com­edy with a Cause” se­ries merges en­ter­tain­ment with phi­lan­thropy as ticket sales for shows ben­e­fit se­lected char­i­ties as well as the the­ater space.

The next show is to­mor­row at 7:30 p.m. fea­tur­ing co­me­di­ans Mike Aronin and Jared Stern. Both comics are from Mary­land and de­liver “clean” shows, ac­cord­ing to pro­moter Irwin We­in­stein. Though their con­tent may not be PG rated, We­in­stein said “foul words” are not part of the script.

The owner of his own en­ter­tain­ment com­pany, Kalei­do­scope Com­edy, We­in­stein has been plan­ning events and pro­mot­ing com­edy shows for Mar­tini’s Restau­rant and Lounge in White Plains for close to eight years. He joined ef­forts to cre­ate “Com­edy with a Cause” last year.

“Re­al­is­ti­cally it’s a small the­ater so the lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions should jump on it,” We­in­stein said of non­prof­its par­tic­i­pat­ing with the the­ater. “All you have to do is let peo­ple know you’re do­ing this and you’re go­ing to make some money.”

That’s the thought process that led to­mor­row’s ben­e­fi­ciary, Project Heal­ing Wa­ters Fly Fish­ing, to the Black Box doors.

“In the non­profit world, there’s lim­ited op­por­tu­nity for ex­po­sure,” said Mindi Roberts, chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer for Project Heal­ing Wa­ters., adding that lo­cal events like com­edy nights are a way to get the word out.

Project Heal­ing Wa­ters is an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to

help­ing ac­tive mil­i­tary ser­vice per­son­nel and dis­abled vet­er­ans heal phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally through fly fish­ing and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. Through the process of learn­ing fly fish­ing comes the ther­apy, Roberts said, and a sense of nor­malcy and ca­ma­raderie.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion has 212 pro­grams across the coun­try with its head­quar­ters in La Plata. Though a South­ern Mary­land pro­gram has yet to be es­tab­lished, Roberts said it’s in the works. Rais­ing funds and aware­ness through events like “Com­edy with a Cause” and gain­ing vol­un­teer sup­port is a step in the right di­rec­tion for that goal.

“Com­mu­nity en­gage­ment goes both ways,” Hunger­ford said. “I want non­prof­its to see this as their spe­cial place and re­al­ize its their mar­ket­ing and PR op­por­tu­nity, it’s af­ford­able and unique.”

But de­spite the op­por­tu­nity it presents, We­in­stein said find­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions to par­tic­i­pate in the monthly shows isn’t easy.

“It sounds weird be­cause you’d think there’d be tons of or­ga­ni­za­tions that would want to par­tic­i­pate,” We­in­stein said. “It’s kind of

sur­pris­ing the dif­fi­culty in find­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions that want to par­tic­i­pate but it’s a good cause and it’s worth do­ing… It’s just a mat­ter of peo­ple know­ing we’re do­ing it, it takes time for peo­ple to see that some­thing is hap­pen­ing.”

In ad­di­tion to Project Heal­ing Wa­ters, Hunger­ford said the USO and parks and recre­ation, among oth­ers, have been ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the com­edy nights and IHCA has part­nered with Port To­bacco Play­ers, the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land and Hick­ory Dick­ory Dark Pro­duc­tions to host events — but Hunger­ford knows many more or­ga­ni­za­tions could use the ex­po­sure and event space.

“You can­not lament what you don’t have if you’re not go­ing to do any­thing to help it,” Hunger­ford said, gush­ing about the pos­si­bil­i­ties the space could bring to the town. “That’s what I’m try­ing to do here with the arts: look to­wards the fu­ture.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the In­dian Head Cen­ter for the Arts, the Black Box The­atre and its up­com­ing shows, go to www.in­di­an­head­black­box.org or call 301-743-3040.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY SARA NEW­MAN

The In­dian Head Cen­ter for the Arts hosts a “Com­edy with a Cause” se­ries at the Black Box The­atre in In­dian Head. Their next show is Satur­day at 7:30 p.m.

Evie Hunger­ford, a life­long In­dian Head res­i­dent, is work­ing to bring en­ter­tain­ment back to the town while sup­port­ing lo­cal non­prof­its through the “Com­edy with a Cause” se­ries.

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