Artful Giving: Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Va.
By ANGELA WAMPLER | A! MAGAZINE FOR THE ARTS | November 22, 2009Producing Artistic Director Richard Rose says:
Thanks to some good planning and loyal patrons and donors, Barter Theatre expects to come out of 2009 in decent financial condition. Barter has been fortunate that our corporate sponsors and our donors have proven to be very loyal and have shown consistent support despite the very tough economy.
We also have benefited from the "staycation." We have seen an increase in patrons from within the local market who might normally travel out of the region for entertainment. We have seen, as throughout the U.S., a shift away from tourism and more toward the local market.
Barter has been able to successfully plan for the economic downturn. All economic indicators told us that 2009 was going to be a challenge. In preparation, we cut our budget by 20% and selected a season of shows that we felt would have great appeal. Reducing your budget by 20% is painful, but it is far better to plan carefully than to be caught unprepared mid-year. It's the difference between being proactive and reactive.
As a result of cuts, Barter has lost about 20 year-round positions since this time last year. Some positions were laid-off, and others have been lost through attrition. In addition, each department made reductions along the way. We lost artistic, technical and administrative staff. This has meant that Barter's remaining staff has had to work even harder with fewer resources and less support personnel in order to adjust. That being said, as a theatre there are only so many positions that we can cut. Our design teams, technicians, and actors are all required. You cannot automate live theatre.
Barter has also turned to new sources of revenue in reaction to funding cuts and a change in the economy. We produced a 2009 national tour of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and will be producing two national tours in 2010 of The Diary of Anne Frank and Forever Plaid. We feel that national tours will grow Barter's brand; that should translate to more visitors coming from those areas and, hopefully, additional support.
Sustaining best business practices is imperative in tough times. Your results may be less than in a "normal" year — whatever that means these days — but the hard work will have positive residual results. Sustaining the number and quality of our productions is our best avenue for success. Barter did not cut its artistic or educational programming in 2009. We will continue to produce the highest quality artistic productions, offer unduplicated educational opportunities and be a part of this region's economic base.
We will continue to monitor our finances, make the tough decisions and discover new programs that will help us grow. Barter has always been an innovative organization.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
• Barter owes its 76-year history to the support of donors and patrons. Attending productions is a great way to support Barter and to spend meaningful time with your family and friends. Barter sells tickets to more than 735 performances each year, which accounts for almost two-thirds of its income. At the same time, you can save money by purchasing Barter Passbooks. Benefits of PassBooks include up to 60% in savings on tickets, discounts on purchases at The Barter Café, the ability to change or cancel reservations up to two hours before show time, and ticket insurance (if you lose your passes, the box office will replace them).
• Barter also has educational programs. All income from these classes supports all of Barter's educational activities.
• Have lunch or dessert at The Barter Café and buy presents at the Barter Gift Shop. All purchases from these shops go to help support Barter Theatre.
• Purchase ads in Barter's souvenir program handed out at every performance, in Barter's season brochure, and in Barter's electronic communications.
• Volunteers play a major role in the ability to deliver the Barter experience. Barter is very fortunate to have more than 200 active volunteers. From our volunteer board of trustees and special project volunteers to our tireless ushers and special event planners, we cannot operate without them.
Barter Theatre Box Office: 276-628-3991
Administration & Education: 276-628-2281
— Paramount Center for the Arts, Bristol, Tenn.