In what could be a big blow to theatre on the eastside, SecondStory Repertory in Redmond has announced they need $80,000 by December 31 in order to stay open. According to an article for the Seattle Times, Misha Berson reports Secondstory has seen both declining attendance and funders in the last few years. Last year they called for and received $15,000 in donations in order to catch up; despite that and budget/staff cuts, SecondStory has not been able to match declining revenue streams.
The closing of SecondStory Repertory would be a major setback to a community that has seen some growth in theatres like Kirkland Performance Center and Bellevue Civic Theatre. There will be a (already scheduled) fundraiser on November 21 ; you can also donate on their web page.
Update: press release included.
Redmond’s Only Professional Theatre Company Must Raise $80K
By December 31, 2009 or Close its Doors.
REDMOND, WA — SecondStory Repertory, Redmond’s only professional theater company, faces the most severe financial crisis of its decade-long life. This beloved theatrical producer and presenter has entertained tens of thousands from its convenient second story home inside Redmond Town Center. Now, in its 11th season, the theater is faced with the daunting challenge of raising $80,000 by December 31, 2009 or entering bankruptcy and ceasing all operations immediately.
SecondStory Repertory (SSR) has faced financial crises before, but none this severe. The economic downturn and its significant impacts on cultural organizations have resulted in dramatically decreased revenue for one of this region’s few remaining mid-sized theatres. SSR’s financial condition has been exacerbated by a leadership transition and commitment to maintain an 80/20 earned/contributed income budget structure that has proven to be impossible.
Like all organizations affected by the recession, SSR has seen a steady and significant decline in audience attendance: 40% decrease in children’s theatre production attendance, and a 30% decrease in Mainstage production attendance. This, combined with diminished arts funding (down as much as 30% area-wide)* and decreased corporate contributions (down as much as 50% area wide)* has led to a downward cycle of staff cutbacks, deferred salaries and smaller marketing budgets that might normally work to improve audience numbers. At this time, the theatre struggles to meet payroll for the four remaining permanent staff members and contractual performing artists.
SSR’s deficit has slowly increased since 2006 and at the end of 2008, board and staff sent out a fundraising letter to raise the $15,000 needed to maintain operations. Although this appeal was successful, the budget gap has continued to grow. Amidst this considerable shortfall, SSR’s staff and board are working to stabilize the organization and re-structure for successful growth in the future. SSR’s Board of Directors is working hard now to raise the necessary funds by seeking out new donors and holding a series of special fundraising events. The organization’s strength lies in their staff and boards flexibility, willingness to adapt, and creativity.
SSR has jumped on unexpected fundraising opportunities like the October 24, 2009 Thrill the World Zombie Block Party at Redmond Town Center. That event brought in an estimated $3,000 as 300 people danced to Thriller and attempted to break the world record for simultaneous dancing. The next fundraising event is November 21st; 6-10pm. This 2nd Annual Fall Gala is titled Vegas or Bust and is being held at Starry Nights Catering Company 11200 Kirkland Way in Kirkland. The event is coupled with an online auction, and items include trips to Vegas and the 2010 Tony Awards in NYC plus a Mariners shirt signed by Ichiro The online auction website is: http://secondstoryrep.cmarket.com. Visit http://www.secondstoyrep.or/supportssr/events to reserve online.
Statistics and survey feedback have confirmed that SSR is most definitely fulfilling a gap in children’s programming and education outreach on the Eastside. Participation in both at-school and in-house arts education classes has more than doubled in the last 12 months. School performances at SSR have more than tripled and school bookings for the remaining season shows are filling fast. SSR has quickly recognized youth programming as an opportunity and new events like the upcoming Holiday Drop n’ Shop are giving local families an arts-oriented short term childcare alternative (11/27 – 12/19 supervised play, crafts and theatre games for kids age 5-12 while parents shop.$15/2 hours)
SSR staff and board have also enlisted help from the Executive Service Corps of Washington and the Shunpike organization. Their advice and expertise in crafting debt-reduction and long-term sustainability plans will be crucial to SSR’s future. The current plan calls for a modified 60/40 earned/contributed budget structure so that the organization operates without debt and at breakeven by 2013. The board will be developing operating policies and practices that will allow it to fulfill its governance and fiduciary roles. They will also develop specific plans for carrying out its support role of garnering resources for the organization in order to aggressively raise money and improve ticket sales. Programming changes designed to increase funding are also scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of season 12.
Caitlin Frances, the Managing Director, and Susanna Wilson, Artistic Director, are working hard to trim expenses and monitor revenue. The theatre has assembled strong support from its community of artists and maintained a viable core of solid volunteers. SSR has also launched a reading series of 5 productions over the next 6 months with little or no cost to the organization and a suggested donation at the door. This is to help raise funds and continue with new audience development. Each reading is for a play under consideration for next season and includes an audience talk back afterwards. Bunnicula and The Christmas Cabaret will go on as planned. Tickets for A Christmas Cabaret are $27 and the shows run 11/27 – 12/27/09. Tickets for Bunnicula are $9 and the show runs from 10/30-11/15.
Donations of any amount will gratefully be accepted at http://www.secondstoryrep.org/supportssr/donate.html
“I believe in the power of theatre,” says Susanna Wilson, Artistic Director. “I believe in THIS theatre. Facing this financial crisis is challenging, but I believe it is a challenge that Redmond and the Eastside can meet head-on. It has been SecondStory’s mission to bring theatrical arts and education to Eastside residents for almost eleven years and it’s hard for me to believe that the people who enjoy the benefits of SecondStory will let it go without a fight. If each person that has walked through our doors in the past decade donated just a few dollars…we could do it! If everyone who believes this entire community benefits from SecondStory can make a small donation…we can make it!. Our long-term goal is to make Redmond a destination for theatre and the fine arts but we can’t do it alone. With help, we can rebound. Left alone, the theatre will fold.”
*Source: Executive Service Corps of Washington
ABOUT SECONDSTORY REPERTORY
SecondStory Repertory has produced a full, year-round eclectic season of musicals, comedies, dramas, and children’s theater since 1999, all in its intimate, 121-seat theater upstairs in Redmond Town Center. It is much-loved for its musical productions like “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Anything Goes” as well as for its Children’s Theatre and educational and outreach programming. It is unique on the Eastside for its location, intimacy, and its dedicated troupe of professional actors, directors and designers. More than 150 productions have been presented at SecondStory to date.