* * IMPORTANT NEWS * *
July 16, 2014
I am writing to you first and foremost to thank you for all the support you have shown in this project of turning an old, neglected building in to a functional workspace for artistic development of our community. Secondly, I am reaching out to inform those who care about this endeavor of a very important decision I have made in regards to the immediate future of the Harbor Playhouse. In prelude, I invite you to look back with me in the form of a very abridged recap of the last four years:
The Harbor Playhouse was started in 2010 with a private purchase of an old, high-ceilinged church on Lake Avenue, with natural acoustics and plenty of seating room, with some small, but efficient, basement storage space, hidden “sound booth” in the form of an old projection room, and a permanent indoor balcony for extra character. My husband, Ray, and I bought $200 worth of second hand folding chairs from a party-rental business who was transitioning to all plastic inventory, we had the electricity turned on for an $800 deposit to the utility company, and after this, as far as our major financial contributions are concerned, this project has unbelievably paid for itself! The church’s original antique pews were sold, raising $1200 to build a portable stage and false wall designed by my husband, as well as to give the house a fresh paint job on the walls and plywood floor. I directed the Harbor Playhouse’s inaugural production of William Shakespeare’s King Lear during the last stages of the building’s renovation, and following our tradition of not charging admission when possible, relied on the generosity of those touched by the timeless drama and our efforts to provide the community with another artistic outlet, to keep our projects funded. The Playhouse has since been well received by those in the community; our spring, summer, and fall plays have been well attended, always raising enough money to pay for our expenses as well as provide significant wiggle room for those little “emergencies” (frozen pipes, anyone?) that always tend to pop up. Our exhibit table at the Multi Cultural Festival in downtown Ashtabula is annually visited with great interest from the public, and our summer Shakespeare kids are always given a chance to preview their end-of-the-summer production by short performances throughout the event. “Seasons”, the progressive Celtic musical group made up of the charming Lee siblings from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, have graced us with several concerts withholding their typical performance fee in benevolence for our mission of remaining an affordable entertainment option for local families. Our Holiday Multi Arts Show has been an ever inspiring collaborative event with other performing artists, such as those from Colleen’s Studio of Danse, and other local thespians. Open Mic Night has been a consistent inspiration to us on the management side of things, as regular performers quickly become cherished friends whom we look forward to jamming with once a month. Even with this minimal review of what the Harbor Playhouse has grown to become, I feel myself becoming joyfully overwhelmed. My goals for the Playhouse have always remained modest, careful not to set us up to too much disappointment, but through the loving support received from friends, family, and our community in regards to this project, such expectations have been well exceeded.
With all this said, I find myself profoundly weighted by the very difficult decision to discontinue my work at the Harbor Playhouse at this time. As with most big, life-changing decisions, there are several factors in determining an overall course of action. However, most imperatively is that of my personal life at home with my family. There is no doubt that the Harbor Playhouse project was always a big undertaking for me, and I have always weighed the price of my time and energy against the invaluable reward of seeing a safe, affordable, and welcoming place for families to become involved in the performing arts, whether as audience or behind the scenes, as well as to encourage the local community at large with more and more opportunities to engage in cultural literacy. For three out of four years, such a balance has been sufficient enough to allow me to keep creative juices flowing, registers balanced, and PR positive and regular. However, the past several months have compelled me and my family to step back and consider some very significant conditions in maintaining the balance between the Harbor Playhouse and our personal lives. As my family continues to grow (both in maturity and number!), I feel a pull back to an original vocation that goes back father than the Harbor Playhouse, to refocus my energies on my children at home, and to support my husband as he continues his college education. This is an extremely emotional decision to make, but my conscience is very clear on the matter, feeling that it is truly the right decision for me and my family at this time.
It follows that many of you would ask what is to be the future of the Harbor Playhouse and whether I will pursue a candidate of replacement for my position. It is thus brought to my attention that many of our supporters do not know the extent of my responsibilities at the theatre, nor that I have never received any payment except in the form of occasional reimbursement for my own expenses in the production of Harbor Playhouse programs and events. In addition to assisting with the obvious creative aspects of theatre business (such as reviewing potential scripts, brainstorming events, assisting in the production of three shows a year, costuming, constructing sets, directing when necessary, designing programs and advertisements), I have also taken responsibility for the general housekeeping routines of the physical building (seeing to repairs, cleaning, keeping of the grounds) as well as more professional administrative aspects of maintenance (creating budgets and bookkeeping, license and certification renewals, updating the website and Facebook pages, keeping somewhat regular with our email alerts, writing press releases and maintaining public relations with local media and networking resources). One can imagine that the sizeable number of hats I continue to wear as regards my responsibilities at the Harbor Playhouse (which are all in addition to my biggest hat labeled “wife and mother of three”) has potential to become a little overwhelming, even for an overachiever as myself! If I can claim to be good at anything in particular, it is sticking to a tighter than tight budget and making a lot of something from nothing in terms of finances. The Harbor Playhouse has been able to operate since its beginning in 2010 on a budget of less than $5000 per year, due mostly to the undying donations of time and energy from myself and my extended family, as well as some of our greatest local supporters. I am not so bold as to assume that anyone else would be so ambitious (or crazy?) as myself to devote all the time and energy of a full time job to a volunteer position in a local nonprofit organization, especially with the critical amount of fundraising that will soon need to be done to keep up with structural maintenance on an old building such as the Playhouse. As for the time being, the owners of the building have not released details concerning what use will be made of the current Harbor Playhouse space, but its theatrical amenities will remain intact.
We will proceed with planned programming through the month of September: August 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, and 17 we will host the annual Chamberlain’s In-Training Youth Shakespeare production, this year’s play being The Taming of the Shrew, and I extend a personal invitation to each of you to attend our final Open Mic Night and closing reception on Saturday, September 13th from 6:00PM-9:00PM. Notifications concerning these two events will be regularly posted to the website and Facebook pages, as well as sent via the emailing list.
In closing, I want to assure that this in no means indicates that I am leaving the local community theatre scene, nor that our county has seen the end of youth Shakespeare! However, I hope that my reasons for resigning from this particular project are understood, and I will happily receive any questions or concerns in person at one of our upcoming closing events or via email correspondence sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I profusely thank all of you who have donated time, money, and resources to the mission of the Harbor Playhouse Theatrical Co-op, whether regularly or not. Your loving support has made this adventure worthwhile! I hope to see you all soon these next few months. Once again, thank you and God bless.
Harbor Playhouse Theatrical Co-op
Written by William Shakespeare Edited & Directed by Sara Perts
(Performance dates: August 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17)
August 8, 9, 10,, 15, 16, 17
Sundays at 3:00PM