LexArts pulls Actors Guild of Lexington’s funding

UPDATED 9 p.m. June 20.

Josiah Correll and Hayley Williams starred in Actors Guild's 2008-09 season closer, "Long Time Traveling." It was one of the bright spots in an up-and-down season for AGL. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.

Josiah Correll and Hayley Williams starred in Actors Guild's 2008-09 season closer, "Long Time Traveling." It was one of the bright spots in an up-and-down season for AGL. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

LexArts released the list of allocations from its 2009-10 Campaign for the Arts late Friday and left out one of Lexington’s top theaters.

Actors Guild of Lexington, which last year received $72,500 from the campaign, received nothing in this year’s allocations.

Jim Clark. Photo courtesy of LexArts.

Jim Clark. Photo courtesy of LexArts.

“While no arts group is prepared to be cut from a major funding source, it is not as if this came from out of the blue,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of LexArts. “There have been ongoing conversations, and this is not a knee-jerk reaction. This is a cumulative result of the last four years and was not taken lightly.”

Clark said the past four years, LexArts, Lexington’s united arts fund, has worked with Actors Guild to address an accumulated deficit of $83,000 and a current debt of “approximately $40,000,” Clark said.

Actors Guild’s board president, Jim Dickinson, said he and other AGL leaders were taken by surprise, though, when they learned of the de-funding late Friday.

The executive committee of Actors Guild’s board met Saturday afternoon to discuss the de-funding and drafted a statement:

“The Actors Guild of Lexington Executive Committee will submit a comprehensive letter to LexArts addressing the decision to discontinue funding AGL, as well as the inaccurate statements made to board members and the media. We will make our letter public after LexArts board members have had an opportunity to read it.”

Dickinson said Actors Guild will appeal LexArts’ decision.

LexArts’ funding accounts for about 15 percent of Actors’ Guild’s annual budget, Dickinson said.

This move comes shortly after the 26-year-old Actors Guild, one of two professional theater groups in Lexington (Lexington Children’s Theatre is the other), announced plans to move its offices from the Downtown Arts Center to a building in the Distillery District, on Manchester Street; move forward with a contract with Actors Equity, the stage actors union; and expand its programming to include a second stage series in the Distillery District and a cabaret series at Central Kentucky restaurants.

At the time, Clark, of Lexarts, called the move a “calculated risk” for the theater.

The de-funding also came after an up-and-down season for Actors Guild. In December, Actors Guild’s artistic director, Richard St. Peter, said he was concerned about the theater’s survival in the economic downturn and after a few shows did not perform as well as expected at the box office. The theater modified its schedule for the last three shows of the 2008-09 season, reducing the runs for two shows and completely changing one to save money on cast and crew.

But Actors Guild ended the season with two bona fide hits: the one-woman show Bad Dates, which it revived this month, and the April world premiere of Kentucky writer Silas House’s Long Time Traveling.

Ultimately, Clark said Saturday afternoon that although Actors Guild was trying to attract new audiences and generate more income, the plan the theater presented to the allocations committee was insufficient to address the ongoing deficits.

Asked if the theater could survive the $72,500 funding cut, Clark said that was “doubtful.”

But Dickinson, the Actors Guild board president, said, “We can survive without it.”

Arts organizations that did receive allocations from LexArts’ 2009-10 Campaign for the Arts and the amounts they received are:

  • Lexington Philharmonic, $165,000.
  • Lexington Children’s Theatre, $120,000.
  • Living Arts and Science Center, $101,250.
  • Lexington Art League, $62,000.
  • Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, $20,000.
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