‘Blake & Co.’ set to perform

FAIRMONT — If you’re looking for talented people to do a fundraising show, sometimes you don’t have to look any farther than your own house. This is particularly true if your “house” is the Fairmont Opera House.

During a recent brainstorming session on ways to raise money for the Opera House’s capital building campaign, staff and volunteers determined that the logical method to generate funds for a performance venue was, quite simply, to present a show themselves.

Thus, the concept of “Blake & Co.” was born.

“I sing. My wife sings. My brother sings. We’ll play some piano. We’ll play some guitar. We’ll sing. What could go wrong?” said Blake Potthoff, executive director of the Fairmont Opera House.

“Blake & Co.” will take the stage at the Opera House at 2 p.m. Sunday for a 90-minute show with a 15-minute intermission. Doors open at 1 p.m., with seating at 1:30 p.m. There will be beer, wine, coffee and other refreshments and snacks available in the downstairs lounge. Tickets are $30 and are available online at www.fairmontoperahouse.org, by calling (507) 238-4900 and at the door prior to the show.

The show will be a relaxed, informal event, and performers are not limited to Potthoff’s family.

“I asked others to help. We’ve got a couple of Civic Summer Theatre kids coming in, four Opera House employees, two volunteers. Plus we have kids from the elementary school coming in to play a couple of orchestra pieces,” Potthoff said.

“It’s not going to be a show that’d you’d see on tour. It’s not a polished performance. It’s raw. It’s local. It’s different. It’s a variety show. It’s personal stories.

“The whole show just kind of evolved. It proves that this building, this facility is more than just shows that come from other places. That’s what we’re trying to start — a place for the people, by the people.”

Potthoff points out the young people from the Opera House’s Children’s Theatre Program and Civic Summer Theatre that have gone on to perform in college theater productions and even professionally. In addition, Fairmont has a decades-long tradition of summer concerts by its own city band.

“How many other cities do you know that have a thriving city band?” he said.

A survey commissioned by Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, a statewide arts advocacy group, supports Potthoff’s claim that there is an abundance of talent in Martin County.

“(They) did a study of all the counties in Minnesota. Other than St. Louis County, Martin County has the highest number of artists per capita outside of the Twin Cities in Greater Minnesota,” he said. “That includes photographers, singers, dancers, people who self identify as artists. That’s what drives this place. It’s what keeps this place and the Red Rock (Center for the Arts) and the (Fairmont) Concert Association and the Fairmont City Band going.”

Potthoff recently talked to a Fairmont student who was involved in high school theater productions. He and his friends enjoyed the experience so much that they have been gathering in their garages continue singing together. The conversation prompted Potthoff to put serious consideration into expanding local performances.

“There’s so much talent around here, and people don’t have a place to go, like an open mike night at a bar. There’s not many of those around,” he said. “We have this facility. If nobody else is going to do it, why can’t we? We could get together, maybe once a month. We can keep the doors open and just hang out and play.”

Potthoff wants to continue doing a similar annual show as part of a series of yearly fundraisers with a goal of raising $20,000 each year for the Opera House’s capital building campaign. Last fall, the Opera House board kicked off a $10 million improvement campaign which included buying the building to the immediate south, razing the structure and erecting a new building for offices, meeting rooms, an elevator and restrooms. The new construction will increase safety and access for patrons, staff and artists while maintaining the structural and historical integrity of the original building.

“This show is not about me living my childhood dream of being on stage,” Potthoff said. “I’m just trying to raise money. The more money we raise, the faster we can build the building that has an elevator, more restrooms. Tickets are a little more expensive, but everything is going to the capital campaign.

“Hopefully, people will come and have a good time.”


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