Lip Sync Battle returning to the Schwartz Center

DOVER — Last year’s inaugural Battle of the Schwartz Lip Sync Contest was an unqualified success, selling out the 550-seat Schwartz Center for the Arts and raising more than $65,000 for the State Street venue.

Despite the contest being a massive smash, four months later, the Schwartz closed its doors.

“I wish the money we raised that night had made more of a difference,” said event organizer Katie Kramedas.

The lip sync set was put in storage thanks to Joe Liberto at Liberto Storage in Dover with Ms. Kramedas not knowing if it would ever be used again.

“He contacted me a few months back and asked if he should still hold onto it and I told him to give me a few months until the fall until I could figure things out,” Ms. Kramedas said.

She called him back last week and said that it will indeed be used again.

The second annual Battle of the Schwartz will indeed take place on Feb. 10.

“The venue really made the event spectacular and I didn’t know if I would proceed with it if it wasn’t going to be for the Schwartz,” she said.

The second annual Battle of the Schwartz Lip Sync Contest will be held Feb. 10 at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Getting together with Dover City Councilman Tim Slavin, who is spearheading the grass-roots, community-based effort to reopen the theater, and Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, the lip-sync battle is the second announced event to return to the Schwartz.

The Children’s Theatre will be staging “A Dickens Christmas Carol” there this weekend.

“Robin Christiansen approached me at Del Tech’s Gourmet Gala and said ‘We want this to happen. You have the city’s support. Let’s figure it out’,” Ms. Kramedas said.

“We have the committee back together and we have a few more people. I couldn’t be happier about the whole thing.”

As in the popular TV show, last year’s event showcased seven community notables who each performed a free-wheeling skit while lip-synching to a popular song.

Dr. Kenny Vu, a family physician in Dover, took home the prized belt at the end of the night.

Next year’s field will be increased to 10 contestants with the committee currently accepting taped auditions that show off his or her personality at battleoftheschwartz@gmail.com.

It can be done with a cell phone and does not need to be the actual song contestants would be using on the night of the Battle.

To be considered, the performer must also agree to raise $5,000 for the cause.

“There was no audition process last year but for the past year, I’ve been getting emails from people who really wanted to be a part of this and I thought this would be the only fair way to do it,” Ms. Kramedas said.

“The real kicker is that someone could be the next Billy Joel but if they can’t guarantee they can pull off the required $5,000 in fundraising, they won’t be able to participate. The need to raise funds is even more dire this time than it was last time.”

She and Demetrius Stevenson, the school resource officer at Dover High School, will be the hosts again this time around.

Again like the first edition, local restaurants and liquor distributorships will be highlighted with a VIP reception, followed by the show and an after-party with a disc jockey.

Mispillion River Brewing in Milford has already signed up for the event with more businesses being sought. Ms. Kramedas is asking for more submissions at battleoftheschwartz@gmail.com.

She is hoping to put tickets on sale by mid-December in time for Christmas. Prices will be doubled this year — $100 for VIP and $50 for general admission.

“I expect it to sell out very quickly,” Ms. Kramedas said.

She said she knew the event was going to go over well but didn’t think it would be a sellout so quickly.

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised that it would be so popular. I knew with every fiber of my being that it was going to be a hit. But I thought it would take a couple of years until it sold out,” she said.

“People have shared so many stories from that night. It was such an interesting perspective being up on stage and seeing people smile for three hours straight.

“There was such incredible laughter and tears and it poured out into the streets afterward as people took that momentum with them. It was a pretty special night.”

Plans are to get the Schwartz back up and running in time for Dover Days, the first weekend of May, if not before, and scaling down the offerings to just local groups and productions.

“I love the idea of having a community-based theater that isn’t so dependent on larger acts. Let’s just focus on the dance competitions, lip-sync battles and school things,” said Ms. Kramedas, who has no plans to be a part of the Schwartz Center’s new board, but is interested in its latest reincarnation.

“Arts are so vital to a community. There have been countless studies done that show how much they benefit children up to geriatrics. My hope is that the new board that forms can count on the lip-sync battle every year for a big part of their annual budget,” she said.

The community effort to reopen the theater, shuttered since late June, continues today at the Schwartz with a charette, or workshop of stakeholders who have been invited to participate. Those members will discuss goals for getting the building, owned by Wesley College and Delaware State University, reopened by forming small groups to discuss governance, finances and fundraising, operations, talent and booking, and marketing and promotion.

“I think the closing was a classic case of you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Ms. Kramedas said.

“It was tough pill to swallow but I think it woke up the community that will hopefully now get behind it and get it back on track.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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