Theater Closes Show Early Due to Grant Freeze

By: Jessica Aspiras Email
By: Jessica Aspiras Email

At the end of Williamston Theatre's Sunday performance, of "Music from a Sparkling Planet," audience members gathered in the lobby.There were just 16 out of 88 that could possibly fill the theater. Slow ticket sales, it's one of the reasons the show is ending two weeks early.

"I mean they budget very tightly how many audience members they need per performance to keep the show running," says actor Dennis North.

The other reason is the freeze on statewide grant money for the arts that started last month.

"It was a grant for the entire first season. So we had put it into the budget as incoming money we could count on. They give us a payment schedule, money, so we know when it's coming. And now it's not coming," explains theater co-founder Emily Sutton-Smith.

Since the end of September, of last year, the theater has received just a little more than a third of their $10,500 grant from the state.

"The cuts, when you look at the big picture, the amount of money it translates to, people would say, oh that's not that much money. For us, because we're fledgling, it makes a big difference," says Sutton-Smith.

The big difference hits in the payroll for the professional actors and the budget for marketing and royalties. Actor Dana Brazil is a Michigan native who has worked in other areas of the country.

She says, "I've been to Denver, and it didn't seem to be, they seemed to be thriving more, and there was more support for the arts."

Robbing the public of the theater is what actor Joe Zettelmaier says the cuts are doing.

"It isn't something you can go back and watch on TV. This is here for the brief time that it's here, and then it's gone, never to be seen again," he says.

In the meantime, the theater is hoping to survive the rest of the season, but the outlook is bleak.

"It's frozen until they say it's not. And just from my own experience in the industry, it's like, well, if it's frozen, it's gone," says Sutton-Smith.

"Music from a Sparkling Planet" runs for two more weeks. The last show will be on Sunday, May 27th. For more information log on to their website at www.williamstontheatre.org or call (517) 655-7469.


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