A delicious Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre (FAST) fundraiser is on the menu for later this month.
The second Picnic in Pastel will take place Sunday, Aug. 20.
“It is somewhat inspired by the Dîner en Blanc,” FAST managing director Reema Fuller said.
The world-wide event she referenced takes place on six continents, with people flash-gathering in a public space and setting up a chic dinner setting.
As for the location, only a select few have that information beforehand.
Although this is a fundraiser, Fuller noted there are similarities with the FAST approach to the idea.
“It is summertime and the [FAST] board thought there are so many people who support Festival Antigonish, and love to socialize and really don’t get a chance to do both, so it was a way to bring everybody together,” she explained.
“The idea was to pack up a picnic of whatever foods you like to enjoy with your friends and invite some friends to come join you.
“We will provide a lovely space, some décor, some desserts and music, and kind of provide a nice ambience around that, where people can get together and have a lovely evening,” Fuller added.
The inaugural Picnic in Pastel was staged in 2015.
“There was a great response. Everyone enjoyed themselves so much that the board said ‘let’s do it again,’” Fuller said.
Because of what she described as “kind of a transition year,” in terms of staffing, she noted the fundraiser was put on the back burner.
“There was too much happening so we couldn’t make it happen last year, but we wanted to bring it back this year,” Fuller said.
Much like Dîner en Blanc, she noted, FAST is not revealing the location; that’s information people only receive once they RSVP.
“That’s part of the appeal – that it is a secret garden location,” Fuller said.
“In our very first year, when we did this, the secret garden location ended up being in someone’s lovely and beautiful big back yard, where they had a gorgeous garden and a lot of space.”
This year, there is a new spot.
“We would like to keep that a surprise,” Fuller said, with a smile.
She noted the goal is to have people confirmed 10 days or so before the fundraiser.
“So we can then share all of the details with them,” Fuller said.
There is no ticket price.
“What we suggest is a $50 donation per person and people can bring the donation with them to the picnic,” Fuller said.
“When we did this last time, we were actually quite fortunate – there were some really generous people, who ended up donating a lot more than the $50, which was quite a lovely surprise for us.
“We are just sticking with the same model – it is a $50 suggested donation,” she added.
Picnic in Pastel will take place – rain or shine.
“So the venue will be one where we can move indoors, if we need to, or we will have a tent or some type of arrangement for the rain, so people don’t have to change their schedules,” Fuller said.
She also noted the timing of the event, less than one week before FAST’s 2017 season wraps up (Aug. 26).
“We wanted this to coincide with that, so it is also a chance for people to come and celebrate a successful season,” she said.
“It is the 30th anniversary of our Festival Antigonish, so celebrating the end of that – in and of itself – is a fun thing to do, and tying it in with a fundraiser is a nice way to end it.”
Speaking of fast-approaching end of the season, Fuller said, in the July 28 interview, it has gone “really, really well,” including when it comes to audience numbers.
“We are actually really thrilled with how things are going, so we are into week three of our season, right now, and we have packed houses and a lot of great feedback.
“We have sold more season passes this year than we have ever had before, I believe; more than 200 season passes have been sold,” she added.
At that time, Fuller said the feedback had been strong to the first two Main Stage plays – The Hound of the Baskervilles and Kingfisher Days – and they expected the same for Stage Kiss (opening Aug. 10); not to mention the Family Stage, which is featuring Martha.
As for the strong audience numbers, Fuller talked about some factors, describing it as a “combination of everything.”
“We have put some extra resources into marketing and promotions, as well, and we have tried to do some different things,” she said.
“We have done a lot more social media – digital promotions this time and I think that has helped as well.
“And then, there is word of mouth. Antigonish is such a great arts-loving community that is doesn’t take long for the word to spread,” Fuller added.
And, of course, the great productions and “talented actors” gracing the Bauer stage are key factors.
“They speak for themselves, when someone comes and watches what a great show it is,” Fuller said.
‘Come back for more’
She agreed one of the main focuses for FAST is getting people to the theatre for the first time.
Fuller talked about the positive effect of FAST’s ‘new patron’ initiative, which includes a reduced $20 ticket for first-time play goers.
“The idea is to get them into the theatre, for the first time, see a show and, hopefully, come back for more,” she said.
Just recently, FAST introduced a ‘loyalty incentive’ program.
“For the folks who are here for a play, we will tell them – that night – to hang on to their ticket stubs and, if they come back and use that to book tickets for the next play, you will get a discount on it,” Fuller said.
“That’s something that we are trying, as well, because people come in once, have a good time, but we want them to see more than one play in a season.
“Because all the plays, this year in particular, are very different from each other, so the experience is completely different from one to the next to the next, so we are hoping for people to come in and do that as well,” she added.
Although time remains to see the plays, Fuller stressed the season is winding down quickly.
“We are getting a lot of comments from patrons saying, ‘Yes, I am going to be there, but I am going to take my time and come,’” she said.
“We are filling up really quickly, so we want people to, hopefully, come when they can; get their seats and book them early,” she added.
Fuller noted the benefits of a new online ticket reservation system implemented this season.
“People can book their seats – pick out their preferred seats – and print them right at home, so they don’t even have to come to the box office,” she said.
“They can bring those printed tickets and come right to the theatre.”
As for the Bauer box office, it is open Monday to Saturday, from noon to 8 p.m.
For more details about FAST, including a complete show schedule, visit festivalantigonish.com, or call (902) 867-3333.