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FROM The Camden Herald, April 3, 1997

BRINGING THE ARTS TO CAMDEN

By Susan Mustapich

In the entertainment industry, the old saying "Build it and they will come" just doesn't cut it. Now that the renovation of the Camden Opera House is nearly complete, entertainment professional Chuck Kruger is on board to ensure that performers and audiences will indeed arrive.
Kruger, who has over 20 years of experience performing as a singer-songwriter and presenting and producing concerts, festivals, conventions and stage shows, is behind much of the big-name entertainment that has come to the Midcoast in recent years.

For the past two years, Kruger has booked MBNA's annual employee party, which featured Sha-Na-Na one year and Chubby Checker the next. Kruger's April engagements include Tom Rush at the Waldo Theater and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary fame, at the Portland High School. Other clients include L.L. Bean, the Augusta Civic Center, Apple Computer, Clipper Cruise Lines and Bates College.

Kruger is also the man behind the entertainment at this year's Lobster Festival, which will feature a legendary Motown group.

Last year, Kruger was approached by the town of Camden to bring three- to- five special events to the Opera House, geared toward families and year-round residents. Each event is sponsored by one or more local businesses, with proceeds going to the Opera House Events Fund.

"The idea was to bring in local businesses and other community groups to work together and attract national acts to town during the quieter times of the year," Kruger said recently. "The beauty of it is that we can schedule events when the town isn't in full summer season, enhance town life for year-round residents and also benefit local restaurants and stores."

Town Manager Roger Moody sees the Opera House partnership as a way to enrich the cultural life of the area.

"With MBNA's support, the renovation of the Opera House went far beyond our original goals," he said. "The beauty of the restored building inspired the committee to seek new events to present there."

The first event was Rick Charette and The Bubble Gum Band, a musical family show especially for children. Jaret & Cohn Real Estate and Camden National Bank sponsored the event. Over 300 people attended, and with the assistance of the corporate sponsors, the event covered costs and contributed $600 to the Opera House fund. The fund will provide a basis for putting on future shows.

Lee Szelog, marketing manager at Camden National Bank, sees the Opera House partnership as "a great opportunity to support our local community, where we always like to put our emphasis. The Rick Charette concert was a lot of fun, and it laid the groundwork to continue the effort."

"The Camden Opera House is a beautiful facility," Szelog added, "and if people have the opportunity to see a play or a concert there, they shouldn't pass up the chance."

Kruger expects to announce the Opera House's next special event, which will take place in June, shortly.

Kruger's expertise comes from his experience in the entertainment business and his understanding of the industry from the perspective of performer, presenter, producer and agent. Over the course of his career he has developed extensive contacts with artists and management on a national level. Another tool at his disposal is tour information available on-line and through industry publications that details artists' tours and itineraries.

The business side of booking acts involves calculating the gross revenues an event will generate based on the ticket price the market will bear and the number of tickets that might be sold. Kruger then tries to put the event together for about half that amount.

The town of Camden receives proceeds from various organizations who use the Opera House. The Camden Civic Theatre pays a percentage of ticket sales, and most groups pay a rental fee. Kruger's productions turn over to the town all proceeds above cost.

The type of act the Opera House can attract is limited by the size of the theater, which seats 490, and the drawing power of acts that have less drawing power in cities like Portland or Bangor. But the Opera House Committee, local businesses and Kruger are not counting themselves out.

"The committee wants to stretch and attract known acts who may not play smaller theaters but who know me or enjoy the area," explained Kruger. "The Smothers Brothers, who will be sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in August, don't usually play in smaller concert halls or come to Maine. We're expecting more acts like this, and there's no reason why we shouldn't get them."


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