The free party Jan. 18 at 5:30 p.m. features hors d'oeuvres, performances, videos of musical acts that will perform at the Opera House, information on joining the community group "The Smyrna Singers," opportunities to purchase show tickets, and a cash bar.

For a free taste of what the Smyrna Opera House is offering this winter and spring, a season preview party is being thrown Thursday, Jan. 18 at 5:30 p.m., at the Opera House auditorium, 7 W. South St.

The party is free, but reservations are encouraged by calling 653-4236 or emailing to help the Opera House staff with planning.

The party will feature information about upcoming shows including live performances, videos from musical groups and the latest news about events, along with free hors d’oeuvres provided by Main Street Market and a cash bar.

“It’s literally a happy hour for the community and it’s a pleasant way to get together after work,” said Donna Cantillon, president of the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association Board of Directors which runs the Opera House. “Slip in, meet some friends, have a drink, nibble on some hors d’oeuvres and hear about what to look forward to this season.”

Guests will see a sample of the comedy in the upcoming show by “Stanton’s 4th Wall of Comedy.”

Information will be available about the “Smyrna Singers” community choir which will begin rehearsals soon to prepare for the group’s spring concert.

“Andrea Davis, director, will announce the exciting addition to this group,” said Cantillon.

A new addition to the Opera House schedule is the Book Festival on Feb. 17, and information will be announced about authors and how to register as an author.

“We’ll have a reading from the play for the dessert theater which will run in April. Auditions and the rehearsal schedule will be announced,” said Cantillon.

The party will also feature information about the Opera House's main fundraiser, the annual Arts Cotillion.

“We’ll announce the theme, band and activities planned for the Cotillion Feb. 10. We’ll also describe costume ideas for this year,” said Cantillon.

The Cotillion is the “kickoff event” for the Town of Smyrna’s 250th anniversary celebration, featuring hors d’oeuvres provided by several local restaurants, an open bar, dancing to music by a live band, a live auction and a “wine pull” raffle.

Dress is semi-formal or in clothing that represents some element of Smyrna’s past or present to celebrate the town’s 250th anniversary.

Tickets are $100 and are available until Thursday, Feb. 8 or while supplies last by calling the Opera House at 653-4236 or stopping by during box office hours Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tables can be reserved upon request.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Donna Cantillon, president of the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association Board of Directors which runs the Opera House. “We usually raise about 10 percent of our annual budget at the cotillion.”

How shows are selected

Cantillon said the Opera House programs committee has many considerations when planning events, starting with the mission statement to provide enriching, entertaining and affordable programs and activities along with promoting the arts.

“We receive self-referrals from groups and organizations that want to appear at the Opera House. The committee members research possible performers. Also, we look at past performers and decide if we want to invite them back, considering how many tickets were sold and the quality of the performance,” she said.

The cost of a group is another factor.

“We always ask a group to accept a 50-50 split of the door [ticket revenue], so we don’t have to send a deposit and there’s no chance of us losing money on a program. However, some groups are in high demand and have a following and can ask for a high guarantee. For those groups, we have to ask for sponsors in order to make the group’s appearance financially possible,” said Cantillon. “It should be noted that the financial goal is to cover the costs of presenting the program. Our programs, for the most part, break even.”

Rewards of volunteering

Cantillon is a founding board member of the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association which organized in 1994. She’s now in her second two-year term as board president.

“What I like most about leading the organization at this time is that I bring years of experience to the unique organization that is the SCHA coupled with the extensive experience and work with the Smyrna Opera House project,” said Cantillon “I feel that I lend a sense of stability to the organization by applying my years of experience and work with this non-profit organization.”

What’s the biggest challenge?

“It’s difficult for me to develop and follow a budget when I don’t know how much income will come in month to month. We, as a board, need to get better at fundraising. It’s something we’re actively working on,” she said.

Volunteers are always welcome.

“No nonprofit organization is successful without a hardy and hard-working army of volunteers,” said Cantillon. “The Smyrna Opera House board of directors and guild members volunteer thousands of hours a year and we couldn’t do what we do without them.”

Volunteers help in the box office, sound booth, as ushers, setting up for performances, selling refreshments, and helping with events such as weddings and business meetings that are held at the Opera House.

For information on becoming a volunteer, call the box office at 653-4236.