The Capitol Theatre will operate without a theatre manager this year, after the Portal Players Dramatic Society laid off Elliot Drew due to lack of funds.
“I feel it’s exceptionally unfortunate that the board felt it was necessary to take this action,” said Drew, who has volunteered or worked for the amateur theatre company for 12 years.
“But the economic climate for arts is really tough right now,” he said.
Drew took on the paid manager’s job two years ago, but it was a role that relied on grant funding to sustain itself, and funding has been cut since he started.
“It was really successful at first,” Players’ president Brent Ronning said, but it wasn’t a sustainable business model. “We realized we needed to pull back and go back to the things we do really well, which is our own productions and our youth programs.
“What it came down to is we could no longer financially justify (the position).”
The Capitol Theatre is still a community asset, and groups may still rent it. But the theatre group is not going to seek out roving shows to try and fill the theatre, Ronning said.
“That’s not a good use of our energy this year.”
Capitol Glee and Capitol Stages, the theatre’s two youth programs, will still run, led by paid instructors Teresa Drew and Janet Schlackl (registration will take place in late August). Portal Players recognizes that youth are the building blocks of the arts, Ronning said, and will concentrate on delivering solid programs.
“That’s our future members,” he said. “That’s our membership. We need to put our energy into those programs.”
For now, the Players’ board will run the theatre. Renovations are nearly finished, and an open house is still planned for September, Ronning said. The group’s first production, Les Belles Soeurs, will hit the stage in November.