Bread Box provides food for the body and soul

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Dec. 3, 2013
Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters perform at the Bread Box Theatre. Photo by Peter Polomski. - Contributed Photo

Sunday, Dec. 15, will mark the final performance of the 2013 fall series for the Bread Box Theatre. The Cotton Hollow Trio and Celticity will appear consecutively, beginning at 7 p.m. According to Bread Box founder Bruce John, this will mark the completion of the fifth fall season for the group. According to its website, “The Bread Box is a group of individuals committed to fighting hunger in our local community by providing a folk music venue that is solely dedicated to collecting food and revenue for The Covenant Soup Kitchen and Emergency Food Pantry.”

“The music is great, and it’s really great to have a folk venue in Willimantic,” said John. But the most important function of the Bread Box, said John, is to feed the hungry. Two years ago, he said, the soup kitchen served 120,000 meals. The next year, that number rose to 134,000. This year it’s projected to increase to 145,000. “Those are scary numbers,” said John. “This is a small town. People are getting poorer and poorer, and hungrier and hungrier. So the need is just growing and growing.”

Over the years, the Bread Box has transformed the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (owned by the Covenant Soup Kitchen) into an intimate, unique theatre. Grants from the Lester & Phyllis Foster Foundation have allowed for improvements to the sanctuary, and the sound and lighting. Last year, the group procured a new stage. Just a couple of months ago, a new curtain was installed. “It was going to cost us between $3,000 and $4,000 to have it installed,” said John. “But Zlotnick Construction did it for free for us.” It took three men more than nine hours to complete the project. “It was an awesome gesture,” said John.

Now, the only outstanding project is a new lighting system. “We need some lights,” said John. “We need some real, professional stage lighting.”

Over the years John, who was co-owner of Willimantic’s Shaboo Inn for more than 10 years, has brought in outstanding folk acts to play at the Bread Box. Appearances have included Jonathan Edwards, Aztec Two Step, Cal David and Big Al Anderson. Most of the acts have brought a profit. “We only need 50 or 60 people to clear expenses,” said John. “After that, it’s gravy.”

Bread Box shows have resulted in $24,000 in profit for the soup kitchen, said John. There is an occasional act that doesn’t sell as well. One of John’s goals is to put an end to these. “One of the things I’m striving for is to build a reputation,” he said. A solid reputation will allow the theatre to book lesser-known acts and still pull in a profit-making crowd. “The audiences trust that you know what you’re doing, so they’ll come in even if they don’t recognize the name,” said John.

Another of the Bread Box’s goals is to help promote the city of Willimantic. “We love Willimantic,” said John. “We want to help the city. We always encourage people to go out and have dinner, spend some money in Willimantic.”

Aside from the fall and spring series lineups, the Bread Box sponsors an artist showcase from September through May, on the third Wednesday of the month. The venues draw folk acts from all over Connecticut. “It’s an outlet for folk artists to come out and show off their work,” said John. On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the showcase will end with a poetry reading by students from QVCC. “It’s really great. It’s so fresh and young,” said John. The showcase begins at 7 p.m.

Join a mailing list through the Bread Box website at, or follow the theatre on Facebook. The venue is located at 220 Valley St., in Willimantic. Send a donation for the lighting system or other theatre needs to: Breadbox, c/o Covenant Soup Kitchen, 220 Valley St., Willimantic, CT 06226.


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