The Playgoer: Save Santa Cruz Shakes!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Save Santa Cruz Shakes!

The perils of the nonprofit theatre economy are even hitting those companies ensconced on university campuses.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz--under new AD Marco Barricelli--has just been given notice by its host, University of California, Santa Cruz to balance their books or else.

In a meeting late Friday, UCSC officials, including Chancellor George Blumenthal, told representatives of the SSC board that the university could not continue to underwrite the theater company's budget shortfalls. As a result, SSC was given the charge to raise $300,000 beyond its already allotted budget commitments. The meeting was the culmination of two months of negotiations between SSC and its host university to find some means to keep the company going while minimizing the university's risk of covering the company's ongoing budget deficits.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz has been running annual deficits for several years and the university's Arts Division has been absorbing those losses, which, according to SSC, stand at a cumulative total of about $1.9 million. The projected deficit for the 2008 season is expected to be about $500,000. Blumenthal said he is a fan and supporter of Shakespeare Santa Cruz. But budget mandates brought on by deep cuts at the state level to the UC system have made continuing to underwrite SSC's deficits impossible, he said in an interview Sunday.

"Things might have gone on as we've done it before with some reforms," Blumenthal said, "but this year is different than all other years."

Why, you may ask?

The chancellor said UCSC's share of mid-year state budget cuts announced in September come to about $2 million. Similar budget cuts recently proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will bring a burden of an additional $4 to $5 million, said Blumenthal.

Well I guess Ahnold isn't alone amongst state university budget cutting governors this year. And these times will surely test the relationships between universities and the resident theatres they sponsor and/or house. (Which are lots, by the way.) Unfortunately, I fear many of these relationships may not pass that test.

Anyone out there in the Bay Area can help out Marco with three hundred grand?


Anonymous said...

Your link seemed to misfire on my computer, so all I know is what you have chosen to reprint. Based on that this doesn't seem like a crisis; at least, not as log as SSC is under responsible leadership this time out.

Living within one's means should be standard operating procedure even when times are good. It sounds like this was a business model that never should have been encouraged or tolerated in the first place.

I hope Shakespeare Santa Cruz survives. But I hope it never repeats this practice again.

Anonymous said...

A better link:

Anonymous said...

Well, I went to the SSC website to read their urgent message. I have three reactions:

1. I still feel their management has been fiscally irresponsible for several years. Nonprofit or not, nobody can afford to be complacent about running deficits.

2. Shame on the university for dropping this on them now. Giving them until December 22 to cough up 300K just seems unfair and cruel.

3. At times like these I am sick of seeing celebrities on Broadway, at the Public, Roundabout, or Lincoln Center. Why don't they stage a show at one of these small imperiled regionals? Streep and PS Hoffman just did the film version of Doubt. I bet the studio could be talked in to some good PR and marketing by producing a short run of the play at SSC. The stars could get a charitable waiver from Equity, and if they did it JP "I love the American Theater!" Shanley would forgo his royalties. A two week run with that wattage would dwarf their deficit.

If I had the cash I'd lend SSC the 300K for a scheme like this to be repaid (with no interest) after the receipts were counted.

But as long as all these theaters are shutting down, we should seriously boycott any celebrity who goes the commercial/deep pockets route during these hard economic times.