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Chocolate Factory Theater Launches Kickstarter With Goal of Raising $25,000 to Fix Up New Performance Space

The new Chocolate Factory Theater space at 38-29 24th St. (via Kickstarter)

Feb. 5, 2018  By Nathaly Pesantez

Long Island City’s Chocolate Factory Theater is asking for $25,000 in funds to renovate an old industrial facility into its new performance space.

The experimental arts company, which purchased a 7,500 square-foot factory for $3.8 million over the summer with major help from the city, launched a kickstarter on Feb. 1 that will go toward funding the construction of dance floors, rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, and more at the new site, according to the fundraiser’s page.

“The new Chocolate Factory Theater will offer a larger and taller performance space with a sprung wood dance floor, a dedicated space for rehearsal, proper artist dressing rooms and offices, and space for a variety of community activities,” reads part of the online campaign.

The campaign will remain open until midnight on Feb. 28, and is listed under the “all-or-nothing” funding category, meaning that the Chocolate Factory Theater will not be able to collect donated monies if they fall under the $25,000 goal by the deadline.

The theater has listed a set of “rewards” to donors based on how much money is pledged. Those who give $10 will get their name on the Chocolate Factory Theater’s website, while $50 donors will be invited to toast the new building on March 3. Those who pledge $1,000 or more can join the theater’s founders in a day of advocating for the arts to city representatives. For donors pledging $5,000 or more, a garden party with the theater’s executive director is in store.

Over $8,550 has been raised by 89 backers as of Monday afternoon.

Sheila Lewandowski (left) and Robert Salerni, the previous owner of the Chocolate Factory’s new space. (via Kickstarter)

The new space at 38-29 24th St. is three times larger than the former Chocolate Factory Theater building at 5-49 49th Ave, and will be able to accommodate up to 120 seats (more than 100 percent than the old space) and a 2,000 square-foot rehearsal space, according to the theater.

The factory was purchased in July 2017 with capital funds allocated by several officials, including Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Long Island City) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. The funds paid for the new location in full, which left the theater with zero debt and ended its almost decade-long search for a permanent home after the group realized it wouldn’t have the funds to renew the lease at its original space, which expires in 2019.

“I cried—a number of people cried,” said Sheila Lewandowski, co-founder and executive director of the Chocolate Factory Theater, when the new factory building was purchased. “It was very emotional.”

The theater also announced over the summer that initial renovations, including electrical and plumbing work, building code changes, and the performance floor installation would cost around $1.2 million, with Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan already pledging $350,000 toward this batch of work.

The Chocolate Factory Theater says architectural drawings by the Manhattan-based Ayon Studio and construction estimates by TNT Industries are “ready to go”, and that the only missing piece to the puzzle are funds from the community.

A pie chart created by the Chocolate Factory Theater showing its funding sources for renovation work. (via Kickstarter)

“We have received lead capital funding from the Howard Gilman Foundation, LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, and New York State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan; but we need the support of you, our community, to get us to the finish line,” the theater said.

The Chocolate Factory Theater has hosted artists specializing in disciplines like dance, music, and drama through residency packages since it was founded in 2004. Lewandowski said the new space would be partly used for rehearsals through 2018 as they continue to use their current space for performances. They expect to fully move into the new factory in 2019.


Performers at the current Chocolate Factory Theater space at 5-49 49th Ave. (via Kickstarter)

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They just received nearly $4 million. Why didn’t they just reserve a couple of thousand on the side to do their improvements? This theater seems to vacuum up an awful lot of money.


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