Phil Rakoci

Phil Rakoci, also known as Wildman Phil, is on the board of directors for the BlackBox Foundation. He plans to perform, along with others, at a theater fundraiser on Friday.

CASA GRANDE — “Moving Forward” is the theme of a BlackBox Foundation fundraiser set for 7 p.m. Friday.

The annual fundraiser features hors d’oeuvres, raffle prizes and performances from past shows and local artists. It’s a time for area residents to discover or show their support for the theater program, said Phil Rakoci, a member of the board.

“The fundraiser will showcase what BlackBox is,” said Rakoci, who is known for his “Wildman Phil” touring show in which he educates audiences about wildlife by using live alligators, spiders, snakes, lizards and a lovable three-legged turtle named Stumpy.

Over the years, BlackBox has impacted thousands of people, Rakoci said.

“BlackBox reaches people through its shows and not only audiences but also people looking for a place to be involved in the theater and learn about stage presence and acting,” he said.

As a performer, Rakoci said he was an early supporter of BlackBox as he saw the importance of having a thriving theater program in a rural community.

“I talk to people all the time about how being involved in theater either as a child, teen or adult brought them out of their shells and taught them to express themselves,” he said.

In the coming months, Rakoci said the organization plans to increase its outreach into the community.

“Some people still don’t know how to get involved,” he said.

The BlackBox Foundation is a nonprofit community theater program with a mission to offer opportunities for people of all ages to experience the arts.

The organization produces several musical and theater productions each year as well as improv, comedy and musical entertainment. It also offers workshops and classes for adults and young people as well as opportunities for Central Arizona College students interested in the performing arts.

“We do everything with no staff,” Rakoci said. “Everyone is a volunteer.”

The fundraiser, he said, is designed to cover rent and the cost of equipment and rights for scripts.

In 2018, the theater moved into the city of Casa Grande-owned Woman’s Club at 407 N. Sacaton St. The group renovated the interior, adding theater seating, expanding the stage and installing theatrical equipment. The building has been converted into a theater and serves as a base of operations for BlackBox, which also produces shows at Central Arizona College’s Pence Center.

Under the terms of the lease signed in 2017, BlackBox’s annual rent payment for the Woman’s Club increases each year. For 2020, the organization is required to pay $7,843, according to the original lease signed in 2017.

“Last spring things were looking pretty bleak,” Rakoci said. “There were rumors that the theater was folding and we were losing our volunteer base. But we’re here to stay and we’re in the middle of a restart right now.”

The BlackBox was founded by Ken Ferguson and Stacey Seaman. BlackBox Foundation organized about eight years ago as a way of bringing performing arts to the community. Both resigned their positions earlier this year to pursue other projects.

“The board of directors will carry on their mission,” Rakoci said. “We’re not rebranding, but we are restarting. We want the community to know we’re still here and we’re continuing Ken and Stacey’s legacy.”

Rakoci, who also plans to perform at Friday’s fundraiser, said the event is a celebration of the community as well as theater.

“BlackBox wants to celebrate our community and the continual support for the arts in Casa Grande,” he said.

Tickets are $20 per person. All proceeds from the event will be invested into BlackBox programs, including main stage shows, improv classes, teen and youth programs and community and arts outreach.

Those who wish to contribute but are unable to attend the fundraiser may make a donation by visiting the BlackBox Foundation website at

Members of the BlackBox Foundation board of directors are:

  • Rakoci
  • Krisenna Hancock
  • Tiffany McQueen
  • Sean Crisden
  • Jennifer Elliott
  • Cindi Calhoun, board president

Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at