Welcome to the official Hamilton Players blog: All the world's a stage...

Thoughts and ruminations on all things theater...and then some!

Friday, May 22, 2015

More "State of the Players!"

Hamilton Players, Inc. - a non-profit (501 c 3) community theater.  Its mission?  Putting the spotlight on education, inspiration, and community through the theater arts...and I believe we do a fantastic job of doing just that.  Each year we offer 30 weeks of K-12th grade education classes, 2-7 weeks of adult education, a 4-5 show season ticket, two concert fundraisers, and a handful of other events including reader's theaters, a comedy roast, and a black tie awards event. In the last few years we have staged more than a handful of productions that are still getting rave community reviews!  I have been privy to testimony that credits the Players with "saving the life" of not 1, but 3 separate children; bullied and depressed children who found mentorship and self-esteem in participating in Players programming. I have letters from parents about painfully shy children who "found their voice" on the Players stage.  And we have a bottomless well of talent in the Bitterroot Valley; full of professional artists and other stunningly talented entertainers who regularly grace our stage, providing riveting, professional quality performances. So why, then, is Hamilton Players struggling from month to month to keep the doors open?

The short answer is simple:  in an income/expense based analysis, the Hamilton Players expenses exceed their income.  Simple, right?  Just spend less money. ...Which brings us to the long answer, which is not quite so simple.

We have worked hard to keep expenses down to the essentials and trim the financial fat wherever we can, so we are really operating as tight as we can. At this point, for nearly every additional expense dollar the Hamilton Players cut, income will also be cut. Decrease administrative staff/payroll?  Right now there is one full-time employee and one part-time employee who function as the Executive Director, Managing Director, Education Coordinator, Box Office Manager, Special Projects Coordinator, Costume Shop Manager, Safety Officer, Accessibility Liaison, Volunteer Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, Grant Writer, Patron Services Manager, Development Director, and 24/7 on-call emergency person...as well as do anything that comes up needing to be done.  Between the two of them, they do the work of 3-4 full time staff positions!  Decrease marketing? Lose ticket sales.  Decrease show budgets? Shows with lower production value = less ticket sales.  Cut production stipends? Lose production staff = less shows or lower production value and that equals, yep, you guessed it:  less ticket sales.

Here's the general breakdown of our last musical:
Materials rental .......................$900 (cost to rent music & scripts)
Materials deposit......................$400 (damage deposit)
Royalties.................................$1845 (cost per show x 9 shows)
Musicians................................$1250 (piano + 3 musicians)
Art/Music Direction...................$1500 (Directors' stipends)
Artistic Show Budget.................$2800 (Set, Costumes, Props, etc.)
Admin/Box Office.....................$1650 (Show related admin costs)
Ticketing.................................$150 (ticket fees & ticket stock)
Programs................................$900 (printing fees)
Bldg. Overhead.......................$1000 (Heat/Air, utilities for show)
Marketing...............................$1300 (posters, ads, etc.)

If every showing of a musical sold out (165 seats x $15 x 9 shows) the Players would make $22,275 -$13,695 for a total of: $8,580. Unfortunately, average attendance for a NOT well-known, musical is <55% (or >93). So 93 seats x $15 x 9 shows =$12,555 - $13,695= -$1140 (Yes, a LOSS of $1140!).   This musical averaged 97 per show which came out to $13,095-$13,695 = -600.  Luckily, this production had a 1/2 sponsor that helped offset the royalties leaving the Players with a profit of $600...for the production itself.  Now, this budget does not include day-to-day operations, salaries, and show incidentals (like custodial services and feeding the work crew); nor does it quantify the burden placed on our volunteer pool for the 1200+ DESIGNATED volunteer hours it took to bring this show together.  Non-musical comedies are less expensive to produce, but they also bring in significantly smaller houses as they run about 25% or less (>42)...and if it is a drama?  We're looking at houses that are > 15% or an average of 25 people per show.  That is why the Players do 2 or 3 musicals a year out of their 5 show season, and why we choose at least one well-known, popular musical; because popular musicals (think: Sound of Music, The King and I, My Fair Lady) bring in houses that average 115 people or 68% for a profit of $1830.00...more if the director can come in under budget and we get a sponsor. 

Without sponsors, it is almost impossible for a show to break even. Thankfully, THANKFULLY! Most of the 2015 shows have sponsors, (A HUGE thank you to:  Taco Del Sol in Hamilton, Ravalli County Bank, Family Medicine Center of the Bitterroot, Ann and Paul Thomas, Chapter One Book Store and Roaring Lion Ranch!), but we are still looking for a partial sponsor for Pride & Prejudice, and 4, $250 sponsors for the Summer Session 1 Theater Camp.  It is the rare performing arts organization that can survive on ticket revenue alone, and when I say rare I mean not just unicorn rare, but rainbow-maned-flying-unicorn rare.  And Hamilton Players is not one of those unicorns.  So we plead for community sponsorships, madly write grants and compete with the hundreds of other non-profits in the community and thousands in the state (and sometimes more if it's national) for the same grant dollars, and continually reach out to our community for support. 

The Hamilton Players is a non-profit community theater.  We love what we do and judging by the fact that we are still open and going on our 20th year at the Playhouse, you love us too.  We need your continued support. And in return, we will give back all that we can:  our talent, our time, our gratitude.  We will keep reaching out to this community to entertain, educate, mentor, and help. We will still: partner with other organizations to raise awareness and money (for them and us), donate tickets to fundraisers, give away tickets to other non-profits (youth homes, SAFE, 4H mentorship program), and try to help out the schools whenever we can by supporting their projects (musicals, wax museums).  We will work every day to fulfill our mission statement and prove that we are worthy of your support!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Introducing the new and improved...

So much has happened since my last blog...in 2013!  As a mid-year resolution I have decided to make weekly blog posts a priority.  There is always so much happening with the Hamilton Players, that the issue isn't finding something to say, but rather, finding the time to say it!  So in the upcoming posts, I will be talking about events, funding, programming, wants, needs, wishlists, thank you's  and everything in between. 

Just a quick update/overview...a snapshot, so to speak, of the 2015 Hamilton Players:
  • We currently have an 8 person Board of Directors that meets at 5:30 pm on the third Thursday (generally) of every month at the Playhouse.
  • We have an amazing 5-show season that started in February with The Drowsy Chaperone, followed in April by The Curious Savage. The remaining 3 shows of the 2015 season are: Singin' in the Rain (June), The Odd Couple (August), and Pride & Prejudice (October).
  • As of today (May 12, 2015) our sponsors for the season are: TACO DEL SOL, RAVALLI COUNTY BANK, FAMILY MEDICINE CENTER OF THE BITTERROOT, ANN & PAUL THOMAS, MONTANA CULTURAL TRUST, and ROARING LION RANCH.  Without these sponsors, we would not be able to keep the doors open.  Thank you, Sponsors, for keeping the magic alive!
  • We just closed out an amazing performance tech upgrade made possible by a grant from the Montana Department of Tourism combined with the generosity of our theater donors.  This $33,855.00 project enabled us to purchase new light and sound boards and upgrade the wiring, acquire new masking curtains (legs), a new scrim, a new performance keyboard, monitors, 28 new light fixtures, 4 headsets, a tech laptop, 2 LED spotlights AND install new dimmer packs.  This upgrade, along with the new seating installed in 2010 takes your theater experience to a whole new level.  The production value is at an all time high and you will just have to see it to believe it.
  • The K-12th grade education program has expanded to include 2 weeks in the summer, 12 weeks in the fall and 16 weeks in the spring.  This summer the session 1 camp ends with a production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Jr. (licensed by MTI:  Music Theater International).
  • We have added 3 reader's theater productions to the season lineup:  March, September and December.  The September title is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf featuring denise rose, Terry Croghan, Mara Luther, and Eric Monson.  The December title, which is going to be an annual event, is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Anyone who is interested in participating in that production should contact the Playhouse Box Office.
  • We are currently engaged in campaign to recruit volunteers for all aspects of Playhouse functions, but we are focusing on recruiting builders and carpenters to help build sets.  If you have any interest in volunteering in any capacity, please contact the Playhouse Box Office.
  • Box Office Hours were reduced to Wednesday-Friday, 1-5pm to help reduce the operating budget and keep the Playhouse afloat.  This economy has been rough on the arts across the nation and the Playhouse is no exception.  But we are passionate about what we do and we will fight to keep the magic alive!
  • 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Hamilton Playhouse.  We will be kicking that season off with the first show ever produced at the Playhouse:  Something's Afoot.  It is our dream that this production will bring the Playhouse full circle and bridge the gap between the past and the future at the Playhouse.  Bring back our favorites from the Players past and sprinkle in new faces and talent...both on and off stage! 
...and that, in a nutshell, is where the Hamilton Players are today.  I look forward to sharing more about the Players; where we've been and where we're going.  And I look forward to hearing from all of you: your thoughts, your ideas, your suggestions...let's make some magic happen together!