ManeStage Theatre performances have graced the Sumner High School Performing Arts Center stage since February 2008, providing an outlet for local aspiring actors and entertainment for the community.
(Quick plug: it's the last weekend to catch !)
However, plans to raise PAC facility rental prices this upcoming budget year have left ManeStage in a lurch.
“We strongly urge you to reconsider,” said Scott Pickard, a ManeStage officer, who spoke to the Sumner School District board of directors at the Aug. 17 meeting. “Raising the facility rental prices… will have a drastic impact.”
According to Pickard, the new rental prices were posted on the SSD website before the board meeting at which the 2011-2012 budget was adopted. Although the PAC rental prices have been raised, the rental prices for most other facilities have not been.
Ann Cook, communications director for the Sumner School District, said the rental increase is a way to utilize district resources efficiently.
"Our system was very a la carte for venue rentals... and we had a big menu," said Cook. "You could select all the equipment you needed and for how long. Sometimes a group would rent [the PAC] for four hours and only use three and want us to change their bill. Now we feature package deals with all the technology support and equipment included."
The price for a single three-hour rehearsal will rise from $75 to $140, an 87 percent increase. Custodial costs will rise from $70 to $105, a 50 percent increase. Performance costs will rise from $243.75 to $320, a 31 percent increase.
Cook said the rent increase and package deals are the best way to reduce costs and lost staff time.
"We took a good look at comparable venues and [our prices] were significantly lower than other facilities," said Cook. "We are not the most expensive now, but not the cheapest anymore."
Pickard told the board that if the prices do in fact go up, ManeStage will have three options:
1) To decrease production budgets by cutting back on costumes, props and rehearsal time.
2) To raise ticket prices.
3) To find another venue.
He insisted that quitting the present venue would be detrimental to the community and the School District. Over 300 people, approximately 90 to 95 percent from this area—“your neighbors” said Pickard—have participated in ManeStage. In 2010, they paid almost $18,000 in rental fees to the district; and will pay an estimated $21,000 this year.
Pickard stressed the good points of the present facility, describing it as “a convenient, comfortable and inviting venue.”
“To move to a different location would definitely set us back,” said Pickard. “It is our absolutely last choice.”
If forced, there are other options. Converting a warehouse into a theater is one. Finding a similarly priced, but less convenient venue is another. Cook said the district will begin renting out the Lakeridge Middle School performing venue this year, so that's an option too.
But the ManeStage cast and crew would prefer to stay where they are.
"All we are hoping for is a reasonable and affordable pricing structure for the Performing Arts Center which will allow us to continue to bring entertainment and performance opportunities to our community," said Pickard.