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Children's Theatre's Pat Briggs fired
Original post made
on Jun 30, 2008
Pat Briggs, director of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre since 1961, was fired Monday morning, her attorney, Jon Parsons, said.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Monday, June 30, 2008, 2:50 PM
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Posted by Sherlock
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:38 am
To the poster named Theatre---
I quickly managed to find two children's theatres that are publicly funded.
One is local and goes by the name of the Los Altos Youth Theatre and that's actually been around since 1990.
Another is out of the Northern suburbs of Chicago and goes by the name of the North Shore Theatre of Wilmette. This particular organization has been around for 58 years.
We all sense that Narnia is 100% against all forms of publicly supported children's theatre, but in my experience, the public model actually serves some communities far better than a 501(3)(c) model could ever hope to.
The private 501(3)(c) has some serious disadvantages to it, none of which have been expressed by Narnia.
First off, fundraising, in short order, becomes the key focus of the organization. The experience the children have will often become secondary by necessity. Each and every year, the private theatre will have to meet goals or face extinction.
Generally, fundraising isn't a problem in communities where people are wealthy and looking to promote the arts, but there is some question as to how well a children't theatre would do in Palo Alto as it would be
in direct competition for the exact same dollars that Theatreworks tries to attract--and unlike Narnia,I'm not all that familiar with Theatreworks, but I'd venture a guess that they don't manage to attract a one million dollar surplus of funds every year
The second disadvantage is in oversight.
In a responsible public model, the city or one of its departments will manage the checks and balances.
What had happened with the PACT is an anomaly, and in fact, is something that actually happens far more often with the private model.
Almost everyone who knows anything about children's theatre knows that the people who run private models often have a most peculiar accounting system. Unfortunately, the industry has more
than its share of carpetbaggers and con artists.
The third disadvantage is political in nature. Even the most good and well-intentioned children's theatre directors may find themselves in a position where they must decide whether to cast the offspring of a large corporate donor in lieu of a kid who worked harder and who had more talent. Sometimes, that decision is the difference in whether the theatre stays open.
The fourth disadvantage is artistic. In order to reach a rate of profits that will mean survival, a company will often have to put on productions that have more box office appeal and less artistic merit.
That's why you will often see the private model put on annual shows like Oliver and Annie and Christmas Carol. So much for eclecticism.
In my experience, the public model attracts better personnel. They are attracted to the fact that kids are the priority, they have job security and they have some artistic leeway. In addition, and this is highly important, they have the leeway to isolate and ostracize
bossy, ignorant and meddlesome parents; a bonus that private directors don't always have.
The trend as to who has the public model seems to indicate something that some of you may find startling. They seem to flourish in areas that simultaneously have excellent school districts. In essence, they go hand-in-hand.
The theatre I previously mentioned in Wilmette, Illinois happens to be in an exclusive zone that some people literally move their families to just so that they will have the legal right to attend a highly vaunted high school (New Trier High School). That area is, in essence, an enlightened place to raise a child and part of that equation is in the philosophy of using a portion of the city's funds to fund such things as the children's theatre of Wilmette.
It is an investment in infrastructure and although it practically takes an economist to help explain why, it is apparent to many that this paradigm, in the instances of Wilmette, Los Altos and Palo Alto actually pays for itself. Even the waelthier childless couples there
understand this phenomenon.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
It is my suspicion that Narnia is actually someone who is advocating that the children's theatre go private because by doing so Narnia understands that the PACT would likely be out of business within a year or two since it would have to fight Theatreworks tooth and nail for a share of the same amount of financial resources, and as we all know, Theatreworks has become a smooth running machine in that regard based on their decades of experience with the art of fundraising.
The plot thickens at this point because IF the private children's theatre model were to fail, it would pave the way for Theatreworks to expand into the wonderful facilities the children's theatre currently has. Of course, Theatreworks would then start a nominal children's program to appease the community, but in essence, I believe this is really a power play.
Like I said, I don't know anything about the current model of Theatreworks, but in the 1980's, I distinctly recall a story
that came out of there during one of their annual production's
The child they chose to play the lead, with just weeks to go in the rehearsal process, began to experience puberty, which led to his voice changing.
Unfortunately, this development would all but ruin the show. Had the director senses that this was an inevitability, he would have surely cast another. But the child was a trooper and so were his parents and they both realized how important the show was not only to the community, but to the coffers of the entire organization, and they took the kid to a doctor and flooded him with hormones (estrogen
and/or progesterone) and the kid's voice reverted to its earlier falsetto form and the show was a huge hit.
At the time, Theatreworks was simply known for putting on excellent theatre on an unparalleled level in the community so this development at the time was more amusing than odd and the kid and his parents were both lauded.
After the show ended, the treatments stopped and the kid's voice dropped down to the tone of a man, and everyone lived happily ever after, but even so, count me as one who is not a fan of the notion of injecting hormones into a child so that a theatrical experience can reach a higher degree of quality
consequently...count me also as someone who knows that such a solution would have never been thought up had Theatreworks been operating as a model funded solely by taxpayers.
That, in a nutshell, are reasons not to go private.
If anything, good citizens, it's elementary.