Ruth Stage is a nonprofit theater company helmed by actor Matt de Rogatis. Although presently on pause due to Covid, the company is planning an Off-Broadway production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in January and February of 2022. The production has been postponed four times due to the pandemic and now Matt and company are seeking ways to raise funds…via a raffle.
Ruth Stage has a gaming license in the state of New Jersey which they used in August of 2019 to raise money—again, through a raffle—for their October 2019 production of “The Glass Menagerie.” Yet “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is a far more ambitious endeavor and the company is hoping to raise $100,000 for the arts. Tickets are $100 and 2,000 total tickets are being sold. The drawing is June 26th in Toms River, NJ.
Grand Prize is $75,000 cash
Second is $10,000 cash
(3) $5,000 prizes as well
“We are raising this money for our organization and our future productions so that we can bring back live theater with a bang,” Matt explained via the official press release. “We look to use this money to help bring everyone back to work. This includes actors, directors, stage managers, design teams, lighting, set, publicity people, etc. It’s a rally around the arts and our theater company to get people back to work and get back on the stage.”
Eager to know more about this endeavor, I recently interviewed Matt via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): What prompted you to start Ruth Stage and why did you select that name?
Matt de Rogatis (MdR): I had a very close friend and mentor named Bob Lamb. He directed me in some of the first shows I ever did as an actor and we ended up getting very close. I know he viewed me as the son he never had. Well, when I first met him in 2005, he was the chairman of a theater group based out of Freehold, New Jersey called The South Street Players. After a time, Bob wanted to start a professional, non-profit theater group and that’s when he created Ruth Stage. It’s named after his mother, Ruth, with whom he credited for his love of the theater. At the time he created the group, he was chairman and I was the vice chairman. Sadly, he passed in May of 2019 and I took over the organization upon his death.
MM: What sorts of shows do you most enjoy performing, classics or originals?
MdR: This will get me in some trouble I’m sure but I just feel like so many of the new plays, not all of them, are missing the soul that is so present in the classics. I think that’s largely a reflection of our society. So, to answer your question – I find the classics far more appealing.
MM: What inspired you to apply for a gaming license and how tough was that to secure?
MdR: Our theater group did a $100 a plate dinner to raise money for a show back in 2018. I was the cook! We put a lot of work and effort into the dinner and we only raised like $1200. Sometime later, I was in Atlantic City with my Dad talking about raising money for the next show and he said, “Why do you waste your time with these dinners when you barely make anything? You’re a non-profit. Apply for a raffle license and do a 50/50. Charge $100 a ticket.” And that was it. The next day I applied for the license and a few weeks later we had it. We did our first raffle a few months later in August of 2019 and raised over $17,000.
MM: Why did you decide on creating raffles for art? Why raffles per se?
MdR: Covid has destroyed the arts. It’s destroyed a lot of things but nothing has been hit harder than New York theater. Countless actors, directors, stage managers, painters, designers and other theater professionals have been out of jobs for over a year. This is a true tragedy. This raffle is to raise money for the arts so that we can help these artists reclaim their careers and begin working again. All proceeds will go towards future productions. We decided on the raffle for a couple of reasons. As I said in the last question, it was a far more effective way of raising money but also, it’s not the standard fundraiser. Lots of theater groups run GoFundMe’s and Kickstarters or just simply ask for donations. We found that that method only gets you so far and you rarely raise the money needed by simply asking for donations. With our raffle, we give our donors a chance to win their money back – and then some. It’s exciting and quite frankly, I’ve never heard of a theater group ever running a raffle of this magnitude. It gets people excited. With our current raffle, someone can win $75,000. That can be life changing.
MM: When will this new raffle take place?
MdR: The drawing will be June 26th in Toms River, New Jersey at Amaantran Indian Cuisine. It’s where we drew our first raffle as well.
MM: How can people buy a ticket?
MdR: It’s real simple. You go online to https://givebutter.com/RuthStage2021. Everything you need to do is right there. As soon as you purchase, you’re entered into the contest and someone from our team will fill out your raffle, take a screen shot of it and text you with a picture for your records.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
MdR: Our group is a theater lineage that celebrates 40 years of work on the stage in 2022. That’s a really big milestone. And we have a tremendously exciting Off-Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof scheduled for January and February 2022 in Manhattan. This fundraiser is, in part, to mount this production. We fully expect to be a part of that first wave of theater shows when this virus subsides and we’re taking a lot of pride in being able to give artists a chance to take their careers back. It’s very exciting. There are also five prizes with this raffle. It’s $100 a ticket and 2,000 tickets are being sold. $100,000 in prizes. The grand prize is $75,000, second prize is $10,000 and there are (3) $5,000 prizes. So, it’s pretty good odds that you win something substantial. And I can’t stress enough about what a great cause this is. The arts are so important. We must keep those stage lights burning and we really need your help.
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