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New Nonprofit Theater Formed to Produce LGBT-themed Plays

There’s an old joke among winemakers: “How do you make a million dollars in the wine business? Start with $2 million.” The same holds true for theater producers.

For every “Phantom of the Opera,” “Book of Mormon” and “Hamilton,” there are dozens of shows on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theaters that barely break even or, more often, lose money.

While most regional theaters operate as 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, there are a few independent producers out there making a living. For nearly 25 years, Ronnie Larsen was one of them, with successful productions of his LGBT-themed comedies like “Making Porn” playing around the globe. The last five years he called the Foundry at Wilton Theater Factory in Wilton Manors home, mounting critically-acclaimed, award-winning new works.

After a tough year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Larsen recently announced that he was joining the ranks of the nonprofit theaters that dominate South Florida’s theater scene. After months of struggling to keep the lights on with socially distanced, limited ticket shows, he mobilized an army of volunteers, assembled a board and filed the paperwork to form Plays of Wilton, which he affectionately shortens to “POW!”

“We've been working tirelessly over the past three months to make this a reality,” Larsen said. “POW! is committed to creating, developing and presenting art and entertainment that celebrates and explores LGBT stories and storytellers. It is a continuation of the work we have been doing at the Foundry these last few years. But having a non-profit with a super dynamic board of directors will allow us to grow and develop in new and exciting ways.”

With a coveted 501(c)3 status from the Internal Revenue Service, Larsen can now pursue funding from foundations, cultural affairs agencies and other grantmaking organizations. And individual donations from his loyal fans can now be classified as deductible charitable contributions for tax purposes.

His board is already at work raising funds and in-kind support. Dennis Manning, composer and Larsen’s collaborator on the musical “Now & Then,” is serving as president. Other directors include businessman and Wilton Manors City Commissioner Chris Caputo; performer and SunServe development director Terry Dyer; insurance agency owner Joe Pallant; and theater producer Caryn Horwitz. They are joined by Marc Martorana, Harvey Owen and Carol Wartenberg.

Larsen says nonprofit status also frees him to explore new genres and expand his audience with a broader series of new play readings, professionally edited streaming presentations and Lesbian Thespians, a series featuring women’s stories.

He explained, “As a producer, I have often been forced to pursue projects that I knew would be commercial. I’ve also been incredibly lucky with several plays — like “Grindr Mom” and “An Evening with John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” — that I didn’t think would be profitable. This will ensure that the Foundry continues to be a place for development, growth and risk-taking … the future is bright.”

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