Marc David Pinate, producing artistic director of Tucson, Ariz.'s Borderlands Theater. (Photo by Heather Gray)

Borderlands Theater Raises Funds to Close Budget Gap

The Tucson theatre hopes to fill a budgeting gap left after not receiving a $20,000 grant.

TUCSON, ARIZ.: Borderlands Theater is used to doing as much as it can with a small staff and limited resources, says producing director Marc David Pinate. But to get through the next few months, Borderlands needs some extra financial help.

On March 1, a day after celebrating its move into a new home base, Borderlands announced the need to raise $20,000 by March 27 to cover expenses through July. Borderlands has already received a strong showing of local support, with more than 100 donations getting the theatre halfway to its goal, Pinate says.

“This response, though it may start to slow after this initial burst, has certainly shown us at Borderlands how important we are to this community,” Pinate says. “There are a lot of organizations asking for money, a lot of causes, but we’ve managed to raise $10,000 in a week. That really says a lot, I think. It certainly lifts the spirits of the staff and artists we employ. That public acknowledgement that what you do matters.”

The theatre’s financial troubles are the result of a $20,000 grant not materializing as expected; that amount constitutes roughly 10 percent of the theatre’s overall budget. Pinate, who has led the theatre for just over two seasons, says he has been lucky in receiving every grant he previously applied for, and the theatre had hoped that would continue. He describes Borderland’s current financial situation as living “grant to grant,” with ticket sales covering about a third of the theatre’s budget.

Borderlands staff members were aware there might be a budget problem back in November, but first looked to securing large donations to make up the deficit by March, Pinate says. When those donations did not materialize, Borderlands decided to run a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign. Money raised will go toward rent, staff salaries, and liability insurance, Pinate says.

Now in its 31st season, Borderlands formed with the mission of presenting the diverse voices of the U.S./Mexico border region. A recent move to the historic Sosa-Carrillo-Frémont House, owned by the Arizona Historical Society, places the theatre’s headquarters in one of the only remaining Mexican-American dwellings in Tucson.

Among the Latino community, which is almost 40 percent here in Tucson, there’s a feeling of redemption that a Latino-based theatre company is now a resident of this house,” Pinate says.

Recent productions from Borderlands have included Barrio Stories, an immersive theatre experience honoring Tucson’s Mexican-American barrio, and Sonoran Shadows, which was presented in neighborhood parks and used shadow puppetry. Both productions were among the several pay-what-you-can productions Borderlands puts on annually. Pinate says about 5,000 people attended Barrio Stories, paying about $10,000 total.

Borderlands also recently made national headlines for being one of five theatres around the U.S. that will present Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Walla political drama envisioning the consequences of Trump’s presidency, within the next year. Pinate says such programming in the upcoming season, as well as better budgeting and the opportunity to bring in additional funds by using its new space for special events and classes, should help ensure there are no future budgetary issues.

Pinate urges locals to support the theatre given its commitment to collaboration with area organizations, local history, and culture.

“I think the reason we’ve been around for so long is the kind of work that we do,” Pinate says. “We take a lot of risks. No other company here is doing site-specific outdoor spectacles with giant puppets and shadow puppetry and 40 extras and 80 performers.

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