Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Donation Appeal or Ransom Note?

The Willows Theatre, which announced last week it must raise $350,000 by November or it will close its doors forever, has been called out by Backstage at, which was picked up by You've Cott Mail, as a ransom demand that must stop.

The only difference between Willows' appeal and, say, the Magic's, Foothill Theatre Company's and Shakespeare Santa Cruz's (and many other companies across the nation) is that Willows is late to the party, and so suffers from donor fatigue. While no one wants to see any theatre company fail--especially one that offers weeks--it appears these give-us-$300K-or-we'll-die appeals are now in danger of getting the wrong kind of publicity. (And, it's interesting to note that $300K-350K seems to be the most common numbers.) But when the situation is that dire, what other options are there? How should companies make these kinds of appeals?

In any case, if you'd like to help the Willows out, click here.

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At September 9, 2009 at 12:00 PM , Blogger Becky said...

It is very possible to look at these pleas as ransoms. It resembles a ransom in that something very valuable could be lost if sufficient funds are not delivered. The problem is ransom also implies there is an evil mastermind behind it all and that the money put into save the theatre in danger will profit some selfish kidnapper. While the only company I can speak directly to is the Willows I am sure that in none of these cases was there an evil mastermind. In fact I would hope and assume that all the companies that come into such danger have touched so many lives that it is impossible to imagine a world without them. The Willows Theatre nurtured me and so many others in a very personal and professional way. I think one of its greatest assets is in its genuine desire to inspire and train the next generation of theatre artists in an incredibly intimate and unique way. For that reason alone I know that this is not a ransom however it may sound to those weary of donating to worthy causes in this troubled time. I know that this company does far more good than can be outwardly seen by any audience and that is why I hoped it will be saved.

At September 9, 2009 at 2:37 PM , Blogger Travis Bedard said...

Karen, it isn't just donor fatigue though that's definitely part of it. There's a very real sentiment that a year on, with full knowledge of the funding apocalypse that is upon us, there shouldn't be a *surprise* quarter-million dollar shortfall. And if it was known that at current burn rates they would be out of cash by November why didn't this notice go out sooner?

It's not that Willows is somehow less worthy (or unworthy), it's an expectation of a greater level of accountability with a greater level of knowledge.

At September 23, 2009 at 8:07 AM , Blogger An Honest Critic said...

I'm sure there are lots of reasons why the Willow is in financial trouble, and I'm sure some of those reasons are not flattering. I do not think that the survival of our art form depends on the continuing existence of a financially unstable organization, especially in the bay area where we have somewhere in the vicinity of 400 theatre companies. More over, things die for a reason. I am aware that I now sound callous, but most life forms die so that their parts can be recycled back into an environment that will support their offspring. I think we should all learn from this the same things we might learn from the death of someone we know: nothing lasts forever. Learn how to say goodbye.

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