Chocolate Church in Bath uses crowd-funding to stage 'HMS Pinafore'

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BATH — The Chocolate Church Arts Center is looking for a little help from its friends for its September production, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.”

The 804 Washington St. theater for the first time is employing crowd-funding, or procuring donations from many people via the Internet.

The theater has a GoFundMe page at In six days of July 15, the effort had raised $850 from 22 people, toward a goal of $2,000.

In a statement, Chocolate Church Executive Director Jennifer DeChant called GoFundMe “an innovative fundraising model to engage the community in community theater,” adding that it’s “been many years since we have staged a Gilbert & Sullivan show, so it is a nice juxtaposition to utilize modern-day technology to raise money for a beloved, timeless show like this.”

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas had been produced each year on the Chocolate Church’s main stage by the Brunswick Choral Society, led by Priscilla Montgomery, according to DeChant. When Montgomery, a theater arts teacher at Morse High School and director of its annual talent show, died in 1994, so did Gilbert and Sullivan at the church. The choral society also came to an end.

But more than two decades later, the curtain is set to to up again.

“We have had a great response thus far,” DeChant noted. “Every contribution – no matter how small – counts toward the goal. It builds momentum and community around the project. Our first donation was from an 11-year-old cast member.”

“H.M.S. Pinafore,” a comic opera that premiered in London in 1878, tells the story of Josephine, the daughter of a high-born ship captain who is in love with the lower-born sailor Ralph Rackstraw. Josephine is to be married to Sir Joseph Porter, the lord of the admiralty, but decides to elope with Rackstraw.

The opera ends with a rather interesting plot twist.

The cast includes 35 people between the ages of 11 and 65, chosen by director Wayne Otto, who worked with Montgomery on many shows.

“To make this happen we need a really cool set – a big ship with stairs, a mast, rope ladders and lots of ornamentation,” Otto said in a statement. “We need marvelous costumes – flowing 19th-century dresses and sailors suits and an admiral’s uniform and a ship’s captain.”

The show opens at 7 p.m. Sept. 11, and continues Sept. 12, 18 and 19, and at 2 p.m. Sept. 13 and 20. Call 442-8455 or log onto for more information.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.