The Liberty Theatre Company welcomed new Executive Director J.D. McDonnell earlier this month.

McDonnell worked for years in the world of finance on Wall Street and on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. The company hopes his business acumen can help it keep the Liberty Theatre building in downtown Hailey, it said in the announcement.

“I believe my long history as an entrepreneur and self-starter will add value to [the Liberty Theatre Company],” he said.

McConnell recently moved with his family to the Wood River Valley.

“It’s an interesting time of transition with the influx of outsiders—myself included,” he said.

Board President Claudia McCain said she is excited to have him in the company family.

“His passion, energy and business acumen will be a terrific asset for [the Liberty Theatre] as this new company moves forward,” McCain said.

McDonnell spent his early years in New York working three jobs. One of them was backstage at Blue Man Group.

“Even before then, I had very close friends involved in theater—it’s my favorite form of storytelling,” he said.

McDonnell said he’s excited to be involved in something creative. In the past, he worked in nonprofits.

“My objective is to fortify the company by drawing out supporters from within the community,” he said.

In larger, urban areas, theater companies usually operate on a giving/ticket sales ratio of 60/40. The Wood River Valley is a bit different, as most local companies operate on a 75/25 giving/ticket sales ratio.

McDonnell said he hopes to raise enough funding to keep the Liberty Theatre building with the company. The building is owned by the Sun Valley Museum of Art, which has offered to give it to the theater company, but it’s old and requires work. The company would still need around $1.2 million to renovate it and $500,000 to act as an endowment for ongoing maintenance.

The company has scheduled several events in the first quarter of 2022 in the hope of raising funds. On March 31, the board will assess the company’s situation and make a determination on whether it is able to take possession of the building.

“I know what a significant win it would be for our company of artists to responsibly take possession of the Liberty building,” McDonnell said. “I’m confident that we can rebuild the arts for our community and secure the future of live performance for generations to come.” 

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