MOST theatre companies have a simple approach to their business - get bums on seats. And while it's no different in this regard from other operators, Fremantle-based Spare Parts Puppet Theatre has upped the ante. The 28-year-old not-for-profit company has launched a capital raising campaign encouraging businesses and individuals to sponsor a seat through a one-off payment. The 'Vive la Revolution! Buy-A-Seat' campaign is aimed at further revamping the Short Street auditorium following a recent upgrade to the stage, acoustics and lighting thanks to a $330,000 windfall from the state government's $5.5 million Arts Capital Fund. The campaign coincides with the launch of the theatre's latest production, aptly titled The Bugalugs Bum Thief. "Our theatre seats are in a sorry state of disrepair," Spare Parts general manager Cathcart Weatherly told WA Business News. "The idea is to upgrade the seating and improve their quality and just make them more comfortable, while giving sponsoring companies and individuals a plaque of perpetuity." To be acknowledged with an inscribed plaque mounted on the back of one of the 185 theatre seats, individuals are being asked to donate more than $500 and organisations more than $1,000. Mr Weatherly said Spare Parts had not had a fruitful history with regards to corporate sponsorship, and conceded that the buy-a-seat campaign was audacious in the midst of a global economic crisis. "It's early days yet and we anticipate some takers in the next couple of weeks," he said. Spare Parts' current supporting partners include Australia Council for the Arts, Healthway, Go for 2 & 5, Media on Mars, Papercut Media, and Country Arts WA. The buy-a-seat concept to raise funds is not a new idea. The not-for-profit Western Australian Museum Foundation has a similar campaign at the 204-seat theatre at the WA Maritime Museum. Through a tax-deductible donation of $250, companies or a nominated beneficiary can secure a personalised plaque on the backrest of a seat in the theatre, for a minimum of 10 years. WA Museum Foundation acting director Karen Bassett said the theatre seat campaign had netted the organisation $33,000 since it was launched in 2005. "It's absolutely been worthwhile and I believe that the idea to give families and organisations an opportunity to get their name or the names of a loved one on the back of a seat as a way of honouring them is fantastic and really meaningful," Ms Bassett said. "But we've got to get the word out, we've got to let people know they can honour someone in this way and at the same time support the Maritime Museum." To date, the WA Museum Foundation has secured sponsorships for 135 of the 204 seats available. Under the museum's sponsorship model, after the 10-year deal has finished, sponsoring companies or families are given first right of renewal before their seat is released to the general public. Other successful buy-a-seat campaigns include the 165-seat studio at Theatre Royal in Tasmania and GEMCO Players Community Theatre Inc in Melbourne, which has a sponsorship program for its 150-seat multi-purpose theatre. Mr Weatherly hopes to capture similar success to ensure Spare Parts' long-term future. Spare Parts was founded in 1981 by artistic director Peter Wilson, writer Cathryn Robinson and designer Beverley Campbell-Jackson. It was formed as part of an artist-in-residency program initiated by the WA Institute of Technology (now Curtin University of Technology). After 28 years of operation, the company has developed a national and international reputation having performed in China, the US, Korea, Singapore, Japan and the Czech Republic.
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