Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Local theater in dollars and cents

Troupes spell out some specifics

GREEN BAY, Wis. - When it comes to operating a theater, various troupes in our area offer interesting insights into dollars and cents.

Below are various gleanings from newsletters and reports that offer a glimpse into what it takes to put folks who have a passion to perform up on stage.

The items do not apply to every troupe across the board, but they at least give some idea of what is involved.

+ “Do you know that it costs $125 per day just to keep the Playhouse open?”

That’s a note from Green Bay Community Theater, which owns its own theater, Robert Lee Brault Playhouse.

Also: “Ticket revenue covers 60 percent of the cost of producing each play. We pay sales and property taxes, and we are not subsidized by the government.”

+ On a wish list for Abrams Spotlight Productions community theater is $270 for a toilet in the women’s restroom. “Two out of three toilets are now taken care of. THANKS MUCH,” a note says.

Also on the wish list: Eight hand tools (about $125 each); parking lot upgrade ($2,450); mirrors and lighting fixtures (for cast members to put on make-up, do hair and prepare backstage); flat-screen TV, 27-inch ($400), to be used backstage so actors can see what is going on in the performance and time their entrances, exits and cues; remote wireless thermostat ($170) to better monitor and maintain heat in the theater; and other items.

+ Attic Chamber Theatre of Menasha lays things out in newsletters, like this from fall 2017, with the numbers being for a full season;

Rent to University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley for use of facilities ($23,000); props and costumes ($10,000); royalty and rental fees ($3,000); stipends and expenses of professionals hired ($15,000); expense of intern program ($10,000).

From the 2016 newsletter, the theater did an assessment of the value of volunteers. Actor volunteer hours in rehearsals and performances came to 3,702 hours. Board member volunteer hours, including meetings, community work, retreats and fundraising amounted to 15,504 hours. Hours for ushers, house manager and box office volunteers added up to 2,020 hours. The total was 21,226 volunteer hours. The theater put a value on that of $22.48 an hour and placed an asterisk after the number but didn’t explain where the figure came from. By that accounting, the volunteer-hour value would total $477,160.48. Even at Wisconsin minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the sum is $153,888.50.

+ The wish list in a recent play program at Wolf River Theatrical Troupe in New London offers other perspectives. Listed are per-performance costs for royalties and rights ($400-$1,000); advertising ($250); printing/programs (at least $300); costumes and make-up ($250 on average); and building supplies for set ($50-$300).

The troupe is looking to the future with these improvements in mind: audience risers (more than $1,000 per eight-foot unit); lighting for stage lights, etc. ($2,000); and air conditioning ($7,541).

These are a few of the theaters operating in the area. Add in others, and some significant dollars and cents are involved in the performance arts.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

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