Sunday, January 31, 2010

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

Posted by Bruce Miller
There's good news and there's bad news.

Let's do the good news first. Yesterday in sunny Las Vegas, a 22-year-old VCU broadcast journalism major named Caressa Cameron won a $50,000 scholarship as she was crowned Miss America 2010. Many congratulations to Ms Cameron for representing Richmond, her home town of Fredericksburg, and the Commonwealth so well. Your good news is GREAT news. All of us at Barksdale and Theatre IV are proud of you.

And the bad news? As Ms Cameron was basking in the sunshine and paparazzi flashes of Vegas, her friends back home in Richmond were finding themselves buried under a foot of snow. (It measures 14" in my backyard in Bon Air.)

I know, I know. Snow is also good news! Unexpected time off, sledding down wintry slopes, chestnuts roasting on an open fire. In many ways, snow is festive and fun.

Not to be a buzz-kill, but there's another side to the story. When you are responsible for a $5 million annual budget for a nonprofit touring theatre, all that pretty white stuff that brings activity to a standstill across a wide swath of the mid-Atlantic quickly becomes the stuff of nightmares.
For years now, the snow begins to fall, my kids jump up and down in jubilation, and I sit in the corner and sulk.

This past Friday, Theatre IV opened our wonderful mainstage production of The Song of Mulan. Due to the snow, we've had to cancel two Mulan performances on Saturday and Sunday, costing us --at least on paper--approximately $8,000.

The good news is that, traditionally, most of our wonderful ticket buyers will accept a transfer to another performance, so the actual loss will be in the hundreds rather than the thousands. Nonetheless, it's painful for all concerned.

Also at Theatre IV, we currently have four shows on tour to schools nationwide: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Hugs and Kisses, I Have a Dream - The Life and Times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sojourner Truth. If we have to cancel half of their bookings this coming week, which seems optimistic considering the geographical breadth of this storm, we will lose an additional $12 to $20 thousand--depending on which shows get cancelled.

And in this case, the losses are truly losses. Our tours are virtually sold out for the rest of their runs. In almost every case, there will be no opportunities to reschedule performances.

Then there's the matter of First Baptist of Ivy Gap, the fun and heartwarming new comedy that was scheduled for all day and evening tech rehearsals yesterday and today at Hanover Tavern, leading to an Opening Night on Friday. Both days of tech have been cancelled, due to the fact that it would be irresponsible to require cast and crew to trek across 30 miles of unplowed roads to park in an unplowed lot. At the end of the day, Ivy Gap is only a play--not worth the potential loss of life, limb or crankshaft.

At this moment, without having the full day tech rehearsals, I don't see how it will be possible to open on time. Nothing is definite yet, but if we have to postpone our well-sold opening weekend, that could cost Barksdale an additional $12,000.

Add it all up, and we're looking at a potential loss of $40,000 or more. In this already chilly economy, a loss of this size would be crippling. And it's only January.

We've weathered these storms before, and we'll weather them again this time. But if you get a friendly call from any Richmond box office asking if you'll accept an exchange rather than require a refund for a cancelled performance, please consider the situation we nonprofit theatres are in, and be kind.

Many, many thanks.

--Bruce Miller


TracyC said...

pouring more wine, now...

philcrosby said...

Beautifully stated, my friend.

Sarah Jamillah said...

As we are blanketed in yet another layer of snow and now ice, I think of you guys and all of the local nonprofit arts community. Thanks putting in such an open, honest and lovely way what an impact events like these make. I know your message falls on the ears of a supportive community as we make our way through this winter.