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LIC's Secret Theatre Looking to Raise $10K to Stay Afloat

 Richard Mazda, artistic director of The Secret Theatre, launched an online fundraiser to help the theater through a financial slump.
Richard Mazda, artistic director of The Secret Theatre, launched an online fundraiser to help the theater through a financial slump.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

LONG ISLAND CITY — A popular theater in Queens is running an online fundraiser to help it pull out of a financial slump and keep the show going.

Richard Mazda, owner of The Secret Theatre, at 44-02 23rd St., kicked off the Indiegogo campaign earlier this month with the goal of raising $10,000, money that he said would help the theater avoid program cuts, or in a worst-case scenario, closure.

"I'm hopeful that we will survive this," he said. As of Wednesday, the campaign had raised $3,300, with nine days left.

"There's always a threat of closure — if we don’t make this goal it's going to be very hard to move forward. [But] not impossible," Mazda said. "We're known for pulling rabbits out of hats."

Mazda, who founded The Secret Theatre seven years ago, said much of its financial troubles stemmed from unexpected changes that had to be made in recent years to comply with Department of Building codes.

That included slightly moving the location of its "Little Theatre" last summer — the smaller of two  spaces where it host shows — in order to build a new hallway as an extra entrance and exit.

He said the cost of construction, DOB fines, permit fees, architect fees and business lost during the move added up for the theater, which "has always survived on a really thin margin," Mazda said.

"We had to spend money to move, spend money to rebuild and repaint, remake everything," Mazda said, saying that some of the money raised during the fundraiser will be used to cover back rent.

"Fairly generously our landlord allowed us to slip, but we can't slip anymore," he said.

Some of the funds will also go towards the construction of a bathroom for the Little Theatre, which no longer has one that's directly accessible from its new location.

The Secret Theatre puts on its own in-house plays and also works with a number of theater companies that use the space. The theater also hosts acting classes, weekly children's theater shows and improv acts, as well as annual short play festivals.

"We do work of a consistently high quality," he said.

The theater doesn't receive public grants, Mazda said, and instead relies largely on ticket sales for revenue, though sometimes even popular productions end up just breaking even.

A steampunk-inspired version of the musical "Oliver!" put on last year cost $18,000 to produce, for example, and brought in about the same despite being "extremely well received" and bringing in packed crowds nearly every night, Mazda said.

Those who donate to The Secret Theatre's Indiegogo campaign can score things like tickets to a show or their name on a chair.

Mazda says that so far, the theater has received "amazing support from mostly local people."

"I hope to provide theater to the community for a long, long time to come," he said. "I certainly won't stop struggling to make sure that that is going to be the case."