The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Lexington’s annual theatrical rite of summer in the Arboretum kicks off this week with SummerFest’s production of William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, directed by Joe Ferrell. Here’s a look at Act 1.
UPDATED 6:30 P.M.
LexArts’ executive committee has voted unanimously to deny Actors Guild of Lexington’s request for an appeal of LexArts’ decision to cut the theater’s funding from the 2009 Campaign for the Arts.
The vote Tuesday afternoon by the 10-person committee leaves Actors Guild with no more avenues through LexArts by which it can recover the lost funding. Actors Guild had requested $70,900, which is in line with its recent years’ allocations from the united arts fund.
For an appeal to be granted, LexArts’ acting committee chair Bill Barr said the committee would have had to determine the allocations committee’s decision was not made “in conformity with the written policies, guidelines and bylaws of LexArts in effect at the time the allocations decision was made.”
Actors Guild’s board president, Jennifer Miller, who just took the office at the beginning of this month, said she was working to set up a meeting this week between leaders of the theater and LexArts.
“We need to all be working off the same facts,” Miller said, reiterating the theater’s contention that misunderstandings and mistrust led to the defunding. “We can clear the air. Everybody actually cares about the arts and developing arts organizations and individual artists in Lexington.
“I think this is going to turn out well for everybody in the end, but there are a lot of uncertainties until all the facts are known.”
She said her communications with LexArts on Wednesday, were “cordial and productive.”
In early June, the LexArts allocations committee voted to deny funding for Actors Guild for the 2010 fiscal year.In recent years, LexArts’ allocation accounted for about 15 percent of the budget for Actors Guild, the only semi-professional theater that programs works for adults in Central Kentucky.
In denying the funding request, LexArts expressed concerns about the financial health and management of Actors Guild.
Actors Guild responded with a six-page letter requesting the appeal. The letter said Actors Guild leaders believed that misunderstandings between the groups led to the decision to cut funds and outlined ways the organization thought it had complied with LexArts’ efforts to deal with the theater’s financial problems.
The theater has been on a fiscal roller coaster the past decade, recovering from a 1998 financial crisis and management house cleaning, but again hitting financial shortfalls in the middle of this decade. Late last year, Actors Guild’s artistic director, Richard St. Peter, told the Herald-Leader he was worried the theater might not survive the economic downturn. Two of its winter shows were modified to cut costs.
“We are open about AGL’s past problems and regret that LexArts has not acknowledged the responsible and productive corrective actions that we have taken,” said the appeal letter, signed by the theater’s directors and board leaders.
Miller said Actors Guild finished the 2009 fiscal year $4,000 to $5,000 in the black.
Tuesday afternoon, after the executive committee meeting, LexArts President and CEO Jim Clark said, “This is a four-year process. … There have been years they ended in the black, but then it’s gone the opposite direction the following year.”
Part of the privilege of being a partner organization, Clark and Barr said, is receiving the allocations, which are unrestricted general operating funds. Other grants made by LexArts are given for specific programs or initiatives.
“The allocations committee and the full board’s job and duty is to be good stewards of that money that’s donated by donors to the arts,” Barr said. “Stewardship requires responsibility and sometimes hard actions.
“This decision shouldn’t be looked at as the end of the road for the relationship between these organizations.”
Clark said that cutting Actors Guild out of the allocations does not preclude the group from applying for allocations in the future or applying for other grants or organizational support from LexArts.
Miller said she hopes to discuss those options with LexArts as the group tries to deal with the lost allocation.
“There are a lot of things in a very detailed budget that our finance committee put together that have asterisks beside them that are contingent on certain levels of revenue,” Miller said. “So there are things we will cut if revenue has not reached certain benchmarks.”
Neither Clark nor Miller could say how the de-funding will affect Actors Guild’s use of the theater in the Downtown Arts Center, which is managed by LexArts.
Actors Guild is exploring presenting a second stage series in the Distillery District, where it had moved its offices from the DAC before being defunded. It is also exploring presenting a cabaret series in Central Kentucky restaurants. But the theater has a main stage series scheduled for the 2009-10 season, its 26th, in the Downtown Arts Center.
Regardless of how that situation plays out, Clark said, LexArts is committed to supporting theater for adult audiences in Lexington.
“We are not being nonchalant about what this means for theater in Lexington,” Clark said. “We will work with any group and any artist that has an idea how to invigorate live theater here.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich