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JRT remains in the red

Repeated losses from productions of the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre may require the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to make some tough decisions during the upcoming budget process.
A financial report of the JRT’s productions during the last four fiscal years was reviewed during the April 11 meeting of the BMA.
While productions were not generating a huge amount of revenue, they were covering their expenses until 2009-2010, when the JRT lost a small amount on “Lion in Winter” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
Larger losses were seen in this fiscal year, with four of the five productions not making enough to cover expenses. “A Christmas Carol” was the only show that made a profit.
“During 2010-2011, we have seen more red than black,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said at the meeting. “I have gingerly, delicately and kindly pointed out over the last few months that we are watching this.”
Wolfe said the bad trend imperils the JRT, and there is no excuse for the continued loss of money from productions.
Alderman Terry Countermine, who serves on the JRT Board of Directors, said almost all of the performances of the JRT’s most recent production, “High School Musical,” were sold out, with an extra performance being added to the schedule.
“The play selections for next year are being looked at very closely,” he added.
Wolfe questioned what seemed to be excessive marketing costs, but Countermine said the board thought it was possible the lack of attendance was the result of the plays not being well marketed.
Alderman Chuck Vest suggested the theater may be using too many different marketing avenues.
Countermine said the number of sponsorships is also down.
“Please know for me personally, I’m done beating around the bush about the status quo,” Wolfe said.
In a later interview with the Herald & Tribune, Wolfe said he wants to be as inclusive as possible in talks about the JRT.
“I am certainly not anti-theater, and I have a great appreciation for all of the work that goes into the productions,” he said. “But we need to reverse the trend of repeated losses.”
Wolfe has looked at the advertising expenses and the productions costs.
“If you’re not making money, it’s time to change the mode of operating,” he said. “It’s not just the play selection; the problem is a management issue.
“My plan is to discuss this with (Town Administrator) Bob Browning, and insist on seeing some results very soon.”
The last thing the BMA would ever want to see is the theater diminished, Wolfe said. But if there is no improvement soon, he also noted, there may be changes made during the town’s budget process that will be held during May and June.