Started Feb. 1, the drive has generated about $1,200 of its $8,000 goal. The funds would enable the nonprofit to continue its offerings through late June, which is the end of its 2010-2011 theatrical season, and keep its home theater's doors open. Converted from a 1930s movie house, The Legion Theatre at 114 W. Main St. in Cartersville has been operated by The Pumphouse Players since 1993.
"For the last 10 years that we've been [performing], we normally have been depending on grants, mainly from government organizations, to help us pay our utilities, pay our rent and keep the place open," said Dave Boggess, president of The Pumphouse Players. "A lot of people think that the building we are in is provided by the city or provided by the county or something like that.
"Point in fact, it's a private building. We have to pay rent and utilities to be in that building. Unfortunately because of the recession, a lot of the grants that we've been getting from government organizations have really just dried up. They're just not available."
Continuing through March 30, the fundraising campaign is being promoted on The Pumphouse Players' website, www.pumphouseplayers.com. According to data provided by the group, a $50 donation will cover paint for one set; $100, two new set flats; $1,000 cost of a production; $3,000, rent and utilities for a month; and $5,000, new ceiling for the theater. In addition to placing donations via the group's website, the public also can help The Pumphouse Players' plight by attending its current play, "Bad Dates." The one-woman play penned by Theresa Rebeck is being presented today at 3 p.m. and March 4 and 5 at 8 p.m.
The adult comedy has been referred to as "Sex and the City" meets "The Sopranos." In addition to re-entering the dating world and raising a 12-year-old daughter, the play's heroine -- portrayed by Stacy Vaccaro -- also is juggling working in a restaurant with ties to the Romanian Mafia. All of this provides colorful stories for Vaccaro's character to share with the audience, especially contrasting her romantic hopes with her dating reality. Due to The Pumphouse Players' budget shortfall, all tickets have been reduced to $10.
"I'm sure that you may have seen reports in the paper about the state government cutting all the funds for a number of art programs in the state. And of course we sent a lot of letters to protest that because we feel like arts are an important part of the quality of life in our community, but unfortunately we're sort of at the tail end of those types of cuts," Boggess said. "We of course apply for grants but then if there [is] no money coming from any place to supply the money for those grants, then we sort of get the short end of the stick.
"We're not complaining about that so much as being concerned that arts are being affected in the community. But what it does is it puts us between a rock and a hard place in terms of we expected that money to come in. Unfortunately some of it has not shown up, and it's put us in a situation where we are coming really close to not having the money to pay for utilities, pay the rent, that type of thing. So that concerns us, and we have started a fundraising drive within the organization and also with the public to try to tell them the seriousness of the situation, and how we would like their help to keep the theater open and to keep arts in the community. ... If we couldn't get this $8,000, then in probably in two or three months we would have to start looking at possibly moving out of that location. But we hope that won't happen, of course."
With four theaters recently closing within a 40-mile radius of Cartersville, Leslie McCrary said The Pumphouse Players' situation reflects the current state of performing arts in the region. Along with co-founding the StageWorks theater group with her late husband, Dale, in 2005, she also is the former executive director for the Cultural Arts Alliance of Cartersville-Bartow County Inc. -- a nonprofit that provides information and grants funded by the county and city of Cartersville governments to individuals or art-related groups.
"[At] StageWorks, the same [situation] is going on," McCrary said, adding her theater group is funded by CAA and private industry grants and ticket sales. "We're struggling. All of our organizations are, because we get our money through grants from the Cultural Arts Alliance and that money comes from the city and county. And when they are having trouble funding us, it's like a domino effect. It all comes back to where we are. But there's so many small theaters that have closed in the past six months that StageWorks and Pumphouse both are on the chopping block unless people start coming to see our plays and things like that.
"With StageWorks, we have a different situation than Pumphouse because we rent our performance space and Pumphouse has been where they are for 15 [to] 20 years, I guess. So we have it a little bit easier than they do. So that if we don't get funding, we don't have overhead that we're going to worry about. But when we do a show, like we just finished 'Not About Nightingales,' to small houses it doesn't offset the rent that we have to pay to lease the performance space. So the more people that come out and support the live theater, the better."
For this fiscal year -- July 1, 2010, to June 30 -- the CAA has provided financial assistance to the Etowah Valley Chorale and Senior Shenanigans, in addition to awarding grants to six organizations: Pumphouse Players, StageWorks, Company C, Allstars Community Theatre Inc., Bartow County Genealogical Society and Cartersville City Ballet. While the number of grants have not been affected by the economic climate, CAA President Corinne Scott said the financial amount of each offering has decreased due to less funds allocated by the city and county.
"All the arts groups -- not just theaters, I'm sure dance groups as well and fine arts groups -- are feeling the crunch," Scott said. "Most of these groups are nonprofit, which means that we get a lot of our funding beyond just ticket sales and things like that. It's through grants, donations, fundraisers. We don't have a storefront open every day to sell goods and wares to make a living. We rely on the generosity of the public. So we have felt it because the public probably has less discretionary funds to spend now themselves. So like I said, it trickles down. So as theater groups experience it, they are tightening their spending as well and reducing their expenses as much as possible.
"I'm also the treasurer of The Pumphouse Players. They're experiencing a decline in ticket sales, which hurts, but our expenses have leveled off. But the public can help by attending the events of these groups. I know that StageWorks puts on productions at The Grand and we've had good attendance and mediocre attendance with those productions. Pumphouse Players -- same thing. [We have had] good attendance, [then for] some productions mediocre. The best thing the public can do is support the local arts. We offer in Cartersville such a variety of arts that there's always something to see or do in town. And [it is important to] spend your money locally. That really will help."