Indy theater hopes fundraising effort will keep workers safe

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In the Phoenix Theatre’s basement, technical director Nolan Brokamp does his best work, but that work is coming at the price of health right now.

Brokamp builds sets for 10 shows a year at the Phoenix. That means a lot of work that kicks up dust and debris. Right now, the theater doesn’t have a way to get all the bad air out.

“If you were to go spray a can of spray in the basement now, it would leak up here and everyone would get a headache,” Brokamp said.

So, Brokamp is raising money to buy a ventilation system. The system would allow workers to breathe while the sets are being built: many of them elaborate, multi-level productions.

“It’s a process, you know. We raise money and then we can do this. Then we have to wait to raise more money,” Brokamp said.

The Phoenix Theatre knows better than anyone what fundraising is like. Bryan Fonseca helped found the group 30 years ago as a nonprofit.

“Going out and making the case (for funding) is the same challenge as it was 25 years ago or 30 years ago,” Fonseca said.

What’s different is the number of causes out there looking for help.

“There are many more nonprofit agencies today than at any point in history,” Fonseca said.

A 2011 study by Giving USA found that just 4 percent of all donations made to charity nationwide go to arts programs, like the Phoenix Theatre. That’s compared to 8 percent given to health organizations, 12 percent to human services and 13 percent to education.

Still, Brokamp knows this time it’s about safety and health, just as much as it is about bringing the stage to life.

“(It’s) so we can work in a healthier environment,” Brokamp said.

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