The Belrose Reaches Out

The pandemic-induced carnage continues, and for some it’s especially personal.

Belrose Theater, a San Rafael institution where thousands of locals learned to dance, sing, act and dress for costume-party success over the last half century-plus, is among the many local nonprofits suffering under current pandemic safety concerns.

“We need help, plain and simple, and thankfully, people are stepping forward, but unfortunately, we have to keep asking for even more assistance,” says David Belrose, who’s launched a crowdfunding campaign, and is asking fans and former students to think of creative ways to assist with the emergency fundraising effort. Belrose’s goal is to raise $25,000, just over 15 percent of which has been pledged since August. “Because we are a performing arts center, we didn’t qualify for any grants or loans last year, so we have to keep asking for the community’s help.”

The Belrose, under the artistic direction of Margie Belrose, is a not-for-profit performance venue and theater arts school operating since 1954. The costume shop was added in 1977. David Belrose (Margie’s son) estimates that most of those who’ve already donated are among the many who’ve benefited from Belrose programs over the last 59 years.

“Just a few days ago,” he says, “a woman named Gay Parker, who I don’t really know, made a very generous donation, and left a note for my mom, saying, ‘Thank you for the ballroom dance classes you gave me in the 1950s.’ That’s how long the Belrose has been touching people.”

A major arm of the Belrose is its basement costume shop. Belrose says they rented about a dozen costumes for Halloween, a fraction of what a normal October would bring.

Then there are the annual Renaissance Fairs; seven out of eight festivals the Belrose annually participates in as a renter of costumes were shut down due to Covid, and the one that remained open would not allow Belrose to require masking of patrons, so he chose not to go. Add to that list the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, and the result is a catastrophic loss of income.

And, “One by one, a lot of those fairs are being canceled for 2021,” Belrose says.

One way Belrose fans can help is to host online Save the Belrose costume parties, gathering remotely wearing outfits they rent from the costume shop.

“We are appointment only, we require masks and we sanitize every costume someone tries on before returning it to the racks,” Belrose says. “We care about our customers.”

Belrose adds that Margie recently suffered a fall and broke her hip, but is recovering at home and is in good spirits.

“She’s pretty much unstoppable,” he says. “And so is the theater. The Belrose is never not going to be the Belrose. We’re committed to that. But right now, we’re just trying to find a way through 2021.”

To learn more about renting costumes or the history of the Belrose, visit TheBelrose.com. To make a donation to the crowdfunding campaign, visit Charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/curtain-up.
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