Moving forward with the Performing Arts Center

In light of the recent resignation of the promotions coordinator for the Byrnes Performing Arts Center Arlington's community theater located at Arlington High School Arlington city officials will soon be meeting with school district representatives and hopefully the BPAC Advisory Commission (of which I am a member) to review the management structure of our community theater.

The mayor and city administrator have said they will review the duties and expectations of the vacated position before launching a search for a replacement.

Considering that Cindy Huleatt attributed her resignation to the work load of the job, officials may want to consider adding a third position.

It's true, Huleatt was very busy running the house, perhaps at the expense of booking and promoting the theater. The theater needs a house manager as well as the technical director and a promotions coordinator.

A house, or theater manager, could be an employee of the school district along with the technical director, considering a large portion of the users are students and school organizations. Based at the theater, the house manager could process all the applications for using the theater and would be present during shows to accommodate the artists, as well as supervising ticket sales and ushers, jobs that could be done by students for credit or by a body of community volunteers who are rewarded for their efforts with seats to see the show.

The promotions coordinator, on the other hand, could work off premises: attending booking conferences, meeting with agents and spreading the word about the new theater in Arlington. The promotions manager could be paid a base pay with bonus for any outside acts that make a profit. That would be incentive to get the marketing done as well as the booking.

Since one of the goals for the performing arts center is to benefit the local economy, the promotions coordinator should be marketing the theater outside of the immediate community. If the right assortment of acts are booked, Arlington could benefit from visitors from all across the Puget Sound region, since we are so centrally located. The promotions coordinator would develop a marketing plan, working with the house manager on school district events. There's no reason why our excellent high school plays and band performances should not be promoted to the outside world, as well as events presented by other community groups, such as dance companies, for example. A complete schedule of events for the year should be marketed over time: The longer and more frequently information appears in front of a person, the more likely they will take action.

If the theater were to be managed as a nonprofit organization, the whole management team could work together to seek other sources of revenue including corporate sponsorships and local, state and federal grants for the arts. As a nonprofit, it would be more likely to get free announcements on TV and radio.

With subsidies from grants and sponsors, the theater could be host to performances by local talent many of whom would not be able to afford to rent the theater otherwise. Grants for the arts and corporate donations could be used to present some special events, perhaps a festival of Arlington talent, as well as some big name acts from out of state. Our performing arts center should be a showcase for local talent as well as providing enriching and inspiring shows from the outside world. Providing opportunities for local talent and nurturing a body of volunteer theater advocates would help develop a loyal clientele within the community, another strategy for filling the 700 seats on a regular basis.

But before any decisions are made, and before any positions are advertised inside and beyond the community, officials and the BPAC Advisory Commission may want to consider an outside source for advice. A consultant might provide some critical information that could make or break the success of our PAC as a benefit rather than a burden on the community.

At least one source is willing to share her expertise: The Program Manager for Community Arts Development and Accessibility of the Washington State Arts Commission, Bitsy Bidwell, lives for that purpose. As part of her job, she provides training and consulting assistance to performing arts center and other arts organizations.

We think that offer is something that Arlington can't refuse. The State Arts Commission would be an important partner as a source of grant money and other assistance. We also encourage all theater advocates in the community to get involved and help make our PAC as success. Call Mayor Margaret Larson or Superintendent Kris McDuffy.

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