The board of the Forest Theater Guild searches for ways to ensure they ride out the economic recession.
Monday, April 20, 2009
One of the county’s latest organizations wounded by the economic slump is the Forest Theater Guild, which recently had to cut costs dramatically due to lower ticket sales last summer, fewer donations, and the loss of a major private donor, says the vice president of the Forest Theater Guild board, Safwat Malek.
Those cuts included letting go the only salaried employee last month, former executive director Jane De Lay (though she still volunteers her time and efforts on the theater's behalf, says Malek), canceling the production of Funny Girl, postponing to July the opening of the production of Bandido, originally slated to open this Thursday, and, despite valiant attempts to keep it within this year, postponing Annie until next year. (The Forest Theater Guild website has yet to be updated with these developments.)
“We put on a couple events to raise funds from the community,” says Malek, who’s served on the 14-member, all-volunteer board for eight years, including four as president. “We had pledge drives—membership drives—through the mail. We did not achieve the results we expected.”
They recently sent out another mailer, for which money is trickling in, but has not, as yet, landed the “major contributions” needed to right the ship. Public and private grants have been cut off or reduced, he adds.
“We continue to raise awareness,” says Malek. “We’re all very much behind the Forest Theater Guild. We’ve had a couple of emergency meetings recently; we are improvising.”
As for the next production of the Guild: “We’re working on that. We are looking at fundraising events that can take place at the stage. And we will continue doing our [Films in the Forest] in the summer.”
They are talking to the city of Carmel, the community—from whom they are accepting ideas and contributions—and potential “white knights” in the form of big donors. The sense of urgency is tempered by the “up and down” nature of most community theater companies, which thrive on flexibility and resourcefulness.
“We are community theater in the true sense,” says Malek. “Everything is homegrown: local talents, people you meet at your neighborhood grocery store, fellow students, the young. And that really is our mission. We’ve had a very long tradition, and we want to make sure this continues.”