Sunday, April 26, 2009

Betting Our Bottom Dollar

Posted by Bruce Miller
Between December 2007 and March 2008, the Boards of Trustees, Phil and I made two big, proactive decisions. We scheduled the elimination of five positions from the staff of Barksdale/Theatre IV, and we announced three Depression Era plays/musicals for our upcoming seasons.

It may not have been clear to everyone at the time, but for those of us whose job it was to keep our eyes on the books on a day to day basis, the writing was on the wall.

The positions we eliminated amounted to approximately 11% of our total administrative workforce (staffers, not actors and other theatre artists). Like all RIF actions, these eliminations were painful. They continue to strain our operations.

The eliminations were also necessary. They reduced annual expenditures by approximately $140,000.

The five positions that were eliminated, two by attrition, included Associate Artistic Director, Special Projects Manager, Marketing Associate, Group Sales Manager, and Receptionist/Bookkeeping Associate. If and when the economy rebounds, we hope to be able to restore each of these sorely needed positions.

The shows we announced related to the Depression, but they were all upbeat and inspirational, and reflected the current zeitgeist. They were Barksdale’s productions of A Sanders Family Christmas at Hanover Tavern and This Wonderful Life at Willow Lawn, and Theatre IV’s production of Annie, which just opened on Friday at our historic Empire.

The public seems to appreciate our decision. These have been three of the four biggest hits of our 2008-09 Seasons (Driving Miss Daisy being the fourth).

Susie Haubenstock’s review of Annie appears in this morning’s Metro section. “In tough times,” the headline trumpets, “this musical is just what the doctor ordered.”

“Think that Annie is just for kids? The 1977 powerhouse musical by Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin is a favorite of young audiences, surely, but rarely in history has it seemed so appropriate for older ones as well. Theatre IV’s current production is big and stylish and full of fun—and loaded with Depression-era nostalgia that’s all too pertinent today. But being Annie, the attitude is sunny, hopeful and positive—a real tonic for us veterans of bailouts and layoffs.”

“The story of those plucky orphans under the yoke of the tippling Miss Hannigan still works like a well-oiled machine. There’s a super-sized cast of 26 people and one irresistible dog, and a sumptuous scenic design by Mercedes Schaum. No skimping here. Robin Arthur’s direction hits just the right note—she’s an ace with the orphans, who are cute but never cloying, and her choreography (especially for Easy Street) is fresh and funny.”

Susie continues to praise the entire cast, the remaining designers, and the production as a whole.

So no matter what your age, if you need a lift from the recession-riddled headlines, trundle on down to the historic Empire and take part in Barksdale and Theatre IV’s own stimulus program. You’ll have a GREAT evening in the theatre, laugh and cheer, and help our nonprofit companies triumph, God willing, over this economy that continues to kick us in the shins.

We need you. Hope to see you at Annie, Well, I Ought to be in Pictures, and all our other upcoming productions.

--Bruce Miller

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