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In a substantial contribution to the performing arts community, long time New Jersey theater supporter Betty Wold Johnson gave the McCarter Theatre a $500,000 challenge grant on Sept. 28, according to an official McCarter Theatre press release. Johnson’s challenge grant, which requires that matching funds be raised, is a contribution to the ongoing Campaign for McCarter, a fundraising effort to support the future of McCarter Theatre with an ultimate goal of $15 million.

“What’s significant is the sheer size of [Johnson’s] generosity… This is a big thing for McCarter, and it’s really a wonderful gift for her to give,” Tom Miller, the director of public relations for McCarter, said when discussing what this grant will mean for the future of the Princeton-based theater.

The new Lewis Center for the Arts complex, which will house music, theater, dance, and visual arts, is in close proximity to both McCarter and Berlind Theatre, solidifying the presence of the arts not only at the University, but also in the town community.

Miller hopes that Johnson’s gift will catalyze more active involvement from town members with the arts.

“[The challenge grant] goes a long way to helping us achieve the goals of the campaign, but it’s also another motivating factor for other people that may be interested in supporting the arts here at Princeton to take that move and be a part of the campaign,” Miller explained.

The McCarter education department, in-school residency programs, and outreach partnerships with local nonprofits are some of the many possible recipients of this funding, Miller said.

“We try to look at [McCarter] as a public resource and a place where the community can come and feel comfortable visiting, so we try to give back to the community as much as the community has given us through a lot of our programming,” he said. “It’s not just what we see on the two stages. There’s a lot of work going on in the community that may not be evident if you’re just coming in and seeing a show,” Miller added.

Each year, the 87-year-old theater hosts over 200 music, theater, and dance performances and other events, according to its website. In addition to performance, McCarter offers opportunities in play development, education, and community volunteering.

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