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JRT not covering cost of productions

A loss of more than $3,600 from the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s last two productions has some town leaders concerned about the viability of the organization. And if things don’t improve soon, a new cast of characters may be running the show.
“I don’t believe it’s up to us to micromanage, but if the JRT is unable to correct what we see as a problem, the Board (of Mayor and Aldermen) will become involved,” said Mayor Kelly Wolfe, who added that he’d like to see the theatre, which is partially funded by the town, be more self supporting. “Because the town is involved, we want the JRT to be successful.”
Low attendance at two recent productions – “Seascape” and “Mye and the Sandpeople” – has the JRT board rethinking its play selections and methods of marketing.
“They were great shows, but we couldn’t get people there,” said Janette Gaines, who is currently reviewing more popular titles for consideration.
Work is also underway to form a play selection committee that will be charged with identifying which productions would be most marketable in the area.
“In this economy, people are going to pick things they know,” said Brian Ponder, board member.
In an effort to raise attendance numbers, the JRT is also reinstating its mail promotions. Earlier this fall, the JRT board agreed to hire Jennifer Schmidt to serve as the JRT’s House Manager at a rate of $400 per month. Schmidt has been working on promotions, including the quarterly mailer and other targeted advertising, which are expected to improve the 2011 attendance at well-known plays such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” and Disney’s “High School Musical.”
Still, Town Administrator Bob Browning said ticket sales alone rarely cover a production’s expenses. And while even sponsorship may not provide enough funds to cover the cost, Browning said that is where he wants to see more money coming in.
“My pledge is to focus on the sponsorship committee,” he said. “Otherwise, these shows don’t have a prayer.”
Tickets are on sale now for the JRT’s upcoming performances of “A Christmas Carol.”
Internet ticket sales are up, according to board member Joe Florence, and the potential for a sell-out crowd at each show has theater leaders confident this won’t be the JRT’s final act.