Kensington: No Mistaking Walking Fish Theatre’s Charity]

Stan Heleva, the producing artistic director at the  Walking Fish Theatre , loves being a cornerstone of the Kensington art community.

Actors in the upcoming play Mistaken Charity

“We are constantly introducing ourselves to the neighborhood, and introducing art to the neighborhood. A lot of the people who come through here experienced their first very first show right in our theater,” Heleva said.

Located at 2509 Frankford Avenue for the last five years, the theater is run by the non-profit production company B. Someday, of which Heleva is a part of.  Being a non-profit organization makes the all important dollar more challenging, and according to Heleva it is getting even more challenging.

“The state budget cuts and the economy hurt because art and especially theater are going to be hurt especially hard,” Heleva said.

A look at financial data Heleva provided shows that the nation’s economic downturns are hurting the theater’s ability to get donations. A startling statistic is the sharp decrease in donations from private and public sources. Donations to Walking Fish plunged nearly $28,000 between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. While grants to the theater increased by nearly $7,000 during that period and revenue from the sale of concessions, merchandise and tickets increased by $2,648 that fell far short of covering the decline in donations.


Michelle Pauls, the theatre's managing artistic director gets makeup

Compounding the drop in donations is the loss of a major financial backer. Heleva also said that United Way was a sponsor for the first four years of their neighborhood outreach program, Of Mythic Proportions, but recently decided to end its sponsorship.

Sara Painter does a lot of the public relations and fundraising for the theater, and because it is a challenging time to get donations, she said she has to find others ways to raise money.

“Right now the biggest thing I’m trying to do is research and getting grants. Currently we are 1 for 1; we received a $1,500 grant from the Charlotte Cushman Foundation,” Painter said.

The foundation supports the theatrical dramatic arts in the Greater Philadelphia Area and provides grants to non-profit theaters.

Painter thinks it is only the first of many grants the theater will get, and that the theater will be able to start receiving large donations again.

Kids in the fun with acting class

“Right now we have a lot of ask outs,” said Painter. “So I am very optimistic moving forward.”

For more information on the Walking Fish Theatre, its community outreach programs, its adult and children’s acting classes, play showtimes and more visit

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