The Vineyard Playhouse raised $350,000 at its annual fundraiser on Sunday night, a huge boost for the capital campaign now under way to renovate the historic playhouse building on Church street in Vineyard Haven. The renovation project includes remodeling the stage, which will be named after the late actress Patricia Neal, it was announced at the event early Sunday evening.

“I’m stunned, I’m overwhelmed and so happy that the vast number of people were willing so spontaneously to give of themselves,” playhouse board president Gerald Yukevich told the Gazette yesterday.

At the fundraiser Sunday Dr. Yukevich got the ball rolling when he took the microphone and announced that Ernie Boch Jr. had just offered to match donations up to $100,000.

Claiming he had learned a thing or two from the skills of Vineyard auctioneer Clarence A. (Trip) Barnes 3rd, Mr. Yukevich jumped into action, imploring, coaxing and cajoling people to open their wallets because their gifts would be “twice as generous.”

The crowd of about 170 people responded, calling out donations ranging from $1 to $10,000. In 10 minutes, Mr. Yukevich had met Mr. Boch’s challenge and had raised $200,000.

“The fact is, and this is what’s truly remarkable about the story, the most I was hoping for from last night was that it wouldn’t rain,” Dr. Yukevich said on Monday. “And what happened was it rained thousands of dollars on us. Because Ernie Boch [Jr.] hit me totally by surprise, coming up to me and saying: What do you mean there is no auction? How about you challenge the guests with a $100,000 challenge gift? And I said, okay. And then he looked at me and said, Do it now. And I did it now. It was one of those rare moments where my disbelief had to give way to action,” he said.

The total grew even higher when later that evening, Jim and Susan Swartz of Edgartown pledged an additional $100,000 to the Playhouse.

The gala event was held at the house of Friederike and Jeremy Biggs in West Tisbury. Jazz trio Jeremy Berlin, Eric Johnson and Tauras Biskis played music while servers carried trays of hors d’oeuvres through the crowd and sunlight fell softly across the lawn on a late July afternoon. Mrs. Biggs sits on the board of directors for the playhouse.

Patricia Neal’s four children attended the event and have made individual donations to the effort to build a new stage named after their mother.

Mr. Yukevich began the evening by taking the microphone and acknowledging the picture of Ms. Neal that rested on an easel next to him and announcing that the stage will be named after her.

“Why Patricia Neal? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Patricia Neal loved the theatre, she loved the Vineyard Playhouse, and everybody at the Vineyard Playhouse loved her,” he said.

Then he introduced MJ Bruder Munafo, artistic director of the playhouse.

“I am thrilled and honored to name the stage for Patricia,” said Ms. Munafo. “I loved her very much, she was a great inspiration to me as an actor, as a person. And I was very blessed to have known her. And I would like to say that all four of her children are here: Tessa and Ophelia and Lucy and Theo.” She paused for applause that the audience gave freely in appreciation for the late actress who was a longtime summer resident of Edgartown and a well-known figure on the Vineyard. “What a Mom. What a Mom,” Ms. Munafo said, echoing the sentiment.

Ms. Munafo then invited Lucy Dahl, Patricia’s youngest daughter, to come up to the stage to speak.

“Although she was known mostly as a screen actress, the stage really was her true love,” said Ms. Dahl. “As a young girl she dreamed of being in the theatre. In fact the first time that she heard about Martha’s Vineyard was at the age of 12 when she was reading Katharine Cornell’s book. And Katharine Cornell had said how she loved the Vineyard and my mom never forgot that. And over the years, whenever we drove to Vineyard Haven and down past the town hall Mom would always say, ‘There it is. The Katharine Cornell Theatre.’ And we would always say, ‘Yup . . .’ She always was quiet afterwards, I think she was definitely a little jealous.”

In her remarks Tessa Dahl, Ms. Neal’s oldest daughter, agreed that her mother would have loved to have a stage named after her. Then she introduced the evening’s special guest entertainment: Carly Simon and her son, Ben Taylor, who have been family friends for years.

“I do have two families on this Island,” Tessa said. “One is my wonderful family and the other is Carly’s family. They’ve embraced me for the last few years and I know Carly’s schedule is enormously busy this year and it was so sweet of her to agree to do this for us tonight.”

Ms. Simon and Mr. Taylor played a short set that brought the evening to an end, as twilight descended.

Called A Time to Act, the playhouse capital campaign aims to raise $5 million in phases. The first phase calls for raising $1 million to renovate and remodel the building and add a small addition onto the back of it. Future phases will focus on buying actor housing near the theatre, building a scene shop where sets can be constructed and establishing an endowment.

Gift money received to date includes individual gifts from all the members of the board of directors. Tisbury voters have approved a large contribution of Community Preservation Act money to put toward exterior building renovations, already under way.

Perhaps it was the magic of the theatre, where things always come together at the last minute, that blessed Sunday night for the playhouse. Or perhaps it was the spirit of Patricia Neal that lives on within the people who loved her, and whom she loved. Certainly the Biggses played a part in the spirit of generosity by hosting a delightful party that wound up making a huge stride toward the $1 million first-phase goal.

“Last night we raised a third of that and I feel like we have some real momentum now,” said Ms. Munafo yesterday. “And I also know that with this kind of momentum behind us we can pursue some grant opportunities that are available to you when you do have some capital already raised. I may be a little bit unrealistic and I’m definitely a dreamer about these kinds of things but . . . I’ve said my goal is to get this building done this year coming up, and I feel like, after last night, that’s actually possible. If we can just build on this momentum . . . we could open up for our 30th year, next year, with the new Patricia Neal stage, with an addition put on the theatre, with the rotting wood on the back of the building replaced.”