Posted by Bruce Miller
So you know that cold/flu bug that seems to be wiping out everyone you meet? Well, that same destroyer of throats, noses, sinuses and any and all other body parts having to do with breathing, talking and basically standing upright seems to have hit 4/5 of the cast of Swingtime Canteen.
The only healthy songstress—at least we hope she’s still healthy—is Vilma Gil.
It all started last week with Jan Guarino. We love Jan. So apparently did some airborne virus. Our five wonderful singers were all doing just fine until, with little warning, Jan shows up one night sounding like a frog—and feeling like a frog who’s been run over by a beer truck. Trooper that she is, she went on stage all smiles and, only on occasion, had to cut one of her songs or quickly summon the other women to join her at the microphone to cover the melody.
Jan was feeling so badly on Monday we cancelled Tuesday’s performance to give her a little rest before shows began again on Thursday. I went out to the Tavern Thursday night to see how Jan and the show were doing, only to find the entire dressing room now packed with wheezing, sneezing, coughing women.
All dressed up in their 1940s gowns and hairdos, they looked lovely but were starting to sound like the Andrews Sisters with a foghorn filling in for Maxine.
So why not send in their understudies? As most of you know, that answer is simple. We don’t have understudies. The economic model of a 156-seat theatre performing four times a week is this. You count on selling at 75% capacity (approximately 470 tickets per week). With subscriber, group and other discounts, you plan on averaging $32 per ticket (approximately $15,000 per week). To that earned revenue, you add approximately $4,000 in contributed support (contributions make up just about 21% of gross revenue).
From that $19,000 in gross weekly revenue, subtract:
$2,300 for talent and nightly personnel;
$2,200 for royalties and music rental;
$2,100 for weekly allocation towards sets, lights, costumes and sound;
$2,000 for rent and other facility expenses;
$1,900 for ad buys, brochures, subscriber campaign allocation;
$1,600 for playbills, box office, Internet ticketing and credit card fees;
$1,500 for marketing, promotion and group sales personnel;
$1,100 for development and accounting personnel and audit allocation;
$900 for support facilities (offices, shops, rehearsal hall) and website allocation;
$550 for insurance and business fees; and
$2,850 (15%) for overhead.
Which leaves nothing, nada, zero, goose egg for understudies.
So, many MANY thanks to the heroines of this story, our noble actresses who approach those vintage microphones night after night feeling miserable but looking like they’re on the top of the world, singing gamely on even though they know they’re not sounding their very best. Like so much in the Greater Richmond theatre business, our actors and other theatre artists carry the day, night after night and show after show. They bear much of the weight of our industry on their shoulders, even when they’re feeling lousy. All of us, administrators and audience members alike, owe them our undying gratitude.